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UT’s Future D-Line Looks Scary Good

Derek Barnett-1Projecting too far into the future in college football can be a mistake.

This is the era of de-commitments, transfers, over-hyped recruits and making some judgments too quickly.

But with the news that the Vols have landed their second 5-star defensive tackle in the 2015 signing class in Shy Tuttle, put that aside for at least an evening if you’re a Tennessee fan and enjoy this thought of what might be to come for UT’s defensive line. It could be scary good – and very soon.

Think about what a 2016 starting defensive line might look like for the Vols:

DE: Derek Barnett – entering his third year as a starter
DT: Kahlil McKenzie – a 5-star recruit with a season under his belt
DT: Shy Tuttle – Another 5-star recruit with a season under his belt
DE: Corey Vereen – a senior veteran in his third year of starting

Good luck SEC offensive lines. That’s top-of-the-SEC, and thus top-of-the-nation, potential up front in the area that wins football games in the SEC. That’s not even mentioning the potential depth for 2016. The Vols could have a redshirt senior former starter in the rotation in Danny O’Brien. Dimarya Mixon, who has shown flashes, will be a veteran. Michael Sawyers and Charles Mosley will be developed.

The potential list goes on and on: Dewayne Hendrix, Kendal Vickers, LaTroy Lewis, Joe Henderson and Jaylen Miller could all be on the roster. And that doesn’t even look at some other strong defensive line recruits who are currently committed (such as Derrell Taylor, who committed after Tuttle on Friday evening).

And though around 2016 looks like the time it might be peaking, the influx of talent should help an already improving defensive line get even better in 2015 – when every single defensive lineman on the roster, with the exception of Jordan Williams, has a chance to come back.

The evolution from a Derek Dooley-recruited defensive line to a Butch Jones-recruited defensive line is happening as we speak. With the addition of Tuttle on Friday afternoon, Jones now has two 5-star defensive tackle commitments out of high school in one class.

The Vols haven’t signed a single 5-star true defensive tackle straight out of high school in the modern era of recruiting rankings (since 2002). Let that sink in. That spans four head coaches.

Simply stated, Butch Jones is getting it done on defensive line recruiting.

Anything can happen in college football. Maybe the defensive line doesn’t turn out exactly how it looks like it will right now. Injuries could set in. Maybe one of the key players has a change of plans. Perhaps somebody doesn’t pan out quite as well as analysts project them.

But have no doubt, it’s getting a lot better. One UT source told me recently as we discussed the future of the D-line, “It’s going to look like it used to very soon…things are changing.”

Enjoy that thought tonight and think about what the near future might look like for the Vols up front. Some of Tennessee’s opponents would probably rather not.

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