Losing LaTrell Bumphus, who is out of eligibility, does raise some questions about Tennessee football at defensive tackle going into next year. However, the Vols have a collection of returning veterans and young talent that should make them potentially deeper in 2023 than they have been in years past.
As a result, Jordan Phillips entering the transfer portal is not too much of a concern. ON3 reported the news of Phillips entering the portal Monday morning. Phillips played in three games with the Vols and finished with one assisted tackle, which came in the regular season finale against the Vanderbilt Commodores.
A three-star across the board in Tennessee football’s 2022 recruiting class, Phillips enrolled in December of last year and stands at 6’2″ 295 pounds. He came out of Ocoee High School in Ocoee, Fla., which is just outside of Orlando, still in Orange County.
The Vols’ top defensive tackle from last year, Omari Thomas, is back after registering two and a half tackles for a loss, two sacks, four pass deflections, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and 24 total tackles, 10 of which were solo. Bumphus was right there with Thomas, to be fair.
However, behind Bumphus, the Vols should return Bryson Eason, Da’Jon Terry, Dominic Bailey, Kurott Garland, Tyre West and Elijah Simmons. All of these players can be effective in the middle, and with another year of experience and coaching under Rodney Garner, they could make for a deep rotation.
Then there’s the fact that the Vols are adding in-state defensive lineman Nathan Robinson, who is a hybrid defensive tackle similar to Bailey. He has already enrolled and is taking part in bowl practices. Tyree Weathersby, also committed for 2023, could put on enough weight to get there.
Simply put, Tennessee football has more than enough depth at the position right now in terms of numbers to withstand the loss of Phillips. The major key for them is that some of those players develop a bit more this offseason than they did last year.
Don’t count out the Vols targeting a player in the transfer portal as well. It’s not like they don’t have a need potentially for more skill at defensive tackle. Phillips, however, wasn’t going to be the guy to fill that void next year or maybe even after that.
Everybody should wish Phillips the best going forward, but Tennessee football will be fine. The Vols have enough players to develop currently in the system, and they may not be done adding talent there. As a result, this is no reason to worry.