Tennessee football 2022 LB preview: Everybody’s back, but is that good?

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From one perspective, Tennessee football returns every major contributor at linebacker, including its best raw stats player on defense from last year. The Vols also get another key player returning to health. However, their three main contributors at the position last year had the three lowest regular season PFF grades on defense.

Taking that into account, you have to wonder if the Vols actually wanted everybody back. Now, there were other factors that went into those issues, but UT struggled replacing the transfers of Henry To’o To’o and Quavaris Crouch. Without that issue this year, though, what is the situation?

Our preview for Tennessee football at the position this year will address that and the value of experience and chemistry. The concerns aren’t as big as they were last year, but they’re there. As usual, we’ll look at returning players, newcomers and biggest questions with a final take, but let’s start with who’s gone

Jeremy Banks leads all the Tennessee football Volunteers linebackers back for Josh Heupel’s second season.

Tennessee linebacker Aaron Willis (41) before a football game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021.
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Who’s gone:

Aaron Willis

The most high-profile commitment for the Vols at linebacker last year figured to be an immediate factor given all the transfers. However, Aaron Willis finished the season with just one tackle, and he then transferred to the Houston Cougars this past offseason.

Morven Joseph, who had a sack, also transferred, to the Florida Atlantic Owls in his case, but he could have been confused for an edge rusher, and he also did it during the season. As a result, Willis is the one key loss to focus on here from last year.

Eunique Valentine

A preferred walk-on in 2020, Eunique Valentine never saw any real action in two years with the Vols. He entered the transfer portal in April.

Donovan Slates 

Last year, Donovan Slates transferred to the Vols from Albion College. It was his final year of eligibility, but he saw no real action either.

Hayden Wilhelm

Another walk-on, Hayden Wilhelm didn’t play last year, and while he’s not listed as a transfer, he is no longer listed on Tennessee football’s roster. As a result, it’s safe to assume he’s gone.

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