In a little over two weeks, we will all be hearing the pads popping as the Tennessee Volunteers take on the Georgia State Panthers. The Vols will be looking to flip the script after missing a bowl game for the previous two seasons. This week, I am 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 position group were the skill players, which included the running backs and wide receivers. Today, we take a look at the linebackers.
No. 3 – Linebackers
The linebacker position an interesting group for the Vols. This group features a good mix of upperclassmen but also includes a number of younger guys looking to shine in their first year.
At ILB, Daniel Bituli will look to have a strong senior campaign after leading the Vols in tackles the past two seasons. During his sophomore year, he finished with 90 tackles, including a career-high 23 against Georgia Tech. Last year, he had 79 tackles, as well as 6.5 TFLs. Will Ignont will likely be alongside Bituli at the other ILB position. Ignont is looking to have a strong junior season after he saw plenty of playing time last year. He played in all 12 games, making just two starts, but he finished with 47 tackles over the course of last season. Shanon Reid might also see a number of snaps, as well.
Highly-coveted linebacker Henry To’oto’o will look to make a strong appearance on Rocky Top. To’oto’o came into Knoxville ranked as the 44th overall player in last year’s recruiting class. He’s had a good fall camp so far and is making his way up the depth chart. He will likely see a good bit of action this year as a true freshman. Don’t be surprised to see him get action when the Vols are in a dime or nickel formation.
It will be interesting to see if a few underclassmen see some action, either at inside or outside linebacker. J.J. Peterson had a ton of hype surrounding him when he signed with Tennessee, but after taking a while to arrive in Knoxville, he was redshirted. If the Vols are able to get some production out of guys like Peterson, they will be looking at a good linebacker group.
Roman Harrison, a true freshman, can make a good argument to see some action.
At the OLB position, there are a few players that come into this season with experience. Darrell Taylor heads into his final season on Rocky Top. Besides Bituli, Taylor has a ton of hype surrounding him after a great 2018. Taylor heads into this season with his name on a number of watch lists. Last season, Taylor really solidified his position after a standout game against Kentucky. He had four of his eight sacks on the season against the No. 11 Wildcats. His eight sacks ranked second in the SEC behind Josh Allen. He also forced three fumbles.
Deandre Johnson might see some action at the other OLB position this year. He played in all 12 games last season, but only finished with 13 tackles. His action will likely go up this season as he will have a bigger role. Quavaris Crouch comes into the season with plenty of hype surrounding him, and deservingly so. He looks like a freak of nature and has a great chance to start as a true freshman. He had to sit out his senior season of high school because of an injury, which can be concerning, but with an athlete his size, this fall camp will help pay off for him. Don’t be surprised to see him sneak into the starting role at OLB at some point.
This linebacker corps features a good mix of upperclassmen and underclassmen, so it’s hard to predict what you might get out of those players. If this group is able to get its usual play out of Bituli and Taylor, while mixing in the superstar potential of Crouch and To’oto’o, this group has the case to be one of the best linebacker groups in the SEC.