It’s now just over two weeks away from the start of Tennessee football, meaning we are getting closer to seeing the Vols get out to a strong start in Jeremy Pruitt’s second year as the head man of this program. This week,we are doing a series of the most important position groups on this year’s team. These rankings will be based on how successful the Vols can be if this position group balls out.
Monday featured the secondary, as they were ranked as the fifth most important position group. Tuesday’s group was the skill position, which included the running backs and wide receivers. Wednesday, we took a look at the linebacker position that features a good mix of upperclassmen and true freshman that have potential out the roof.
No. 2 – Defensive Line
A little over a week ago, the defensive line looked like it had some promise. Then, bad news came down, as Emmit Gooden suffered a season-ending ACL injury. Gooden was one of the returning defensive linemen that saw a decent bit of action last season. Gooden finished with 33 tackles and seven TFLs in 2018.
The Vols had to replace a number of defensive linemen after they graduated. As I mentioned in the article about Gooden’s injury, Kyle Phillips, Alexis Johnson, and Shy Tuttle all graduated, leaving the Vols to replace practically their entire defensive line. Phillips was third on the team in tackles last season as he finished with 55, while Johnson was fourth on the team with 51. Tuttle posted 33 tackles, as well.
This group will be better if they are able to get Aubrey Solomon cleared. Solomon is an outstanding player and would definitely help boost the defensive line. At Michigan, he appeared in 18 games over two seasons, where he finished with 24 tackles. He was a highly-coveted recruit, as he appeared in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl his senior season.
The Vols will look to get some help from their JUCO transfers Savion Williams and Darel Middleton. Williams was a top-20 JUCO recruit from Lackawanna College, while Middleton transferred in from East Mississippi C.C. Middleton was originally from the Oak Ridge area where he played high school football before going to JUCO.
Besides those two, the Vols will look to a ton of inexperienced younger guys to help fill in that void at the defensive line.
John Mincey and Matthew Butler will likely see more action, as the Vols will need them to put in some good reps. Redshirt freshman Greg Emerson will see some action as well. Kingston Harris and Kurott Garland will also see some action on a defensive line that is very low on numbers.
The Vols hope to get some good play from the “Junk Yard Dog” Elijah Simmons. Simmons was just a three-star coming out of Pearl Cohn in Nashville. Simmons is massive at 6-2, 340 and has received a ton of praise from a number of experienced players on the Vols defense.
The reason this group is high on the board is that if this group is able to figure things out and produce, despite being short on numbers, they have a ton of promise. As I mentioned before, a lot of this depends on if Solomon gets cleared at all, but this defensive line has some playmakers that can make some noise.