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Way-Too-Early 2015 Depth Chart Projections

Dillon Bates-1-3


OLB: 1. Jalen Reeves-Maybin 2. Cortez McDowell
OLB: 1. Dillon Bates 2. Chris Weatherd
ILB: 1. Darrin Kirkland Jr. 2. Kenny Bynum

Thoughts: A ton of speculation here. There’s talent at linebacker, but I’m not sure how it will all shake out. I’m going to list as Curt Maggitt as a starter at defensive end since that’s where he played the most last year and where I think he’s most effective, but he likely will play outside linebacker and could even get a shot inside as well. Obviously JRM will play a ton and I think Bates, Weatherd and McDowell – all of whom bring athleticism and versatility – will all see the field a lot in some capacity as well. ILB is anybody’s guess – Kirkland certainly looks good coming in, but Jakob Johnson, Gavin Bryant or somebody who moves inside could be in the picture too.

OLB: 1. Jalen Reeves-Maybin 2. Cortez McDowell
OLB: 1.Chris Weatherd 2. Dillon Bates
ILB: 1. Jakob Johnson/Kenny Bynum 2. Gavin Bryant

Thoughts: Another position that is finally building some serious quality depth. You know what you are going to get out of JRM, and that is an All-SEC caliber linebacker who gives 100-percent on every single snap. I think he could be in for a monster season in 2015 and will be locked into the starting lineup as long as he stays healthy. The other positions aren’t as set, but won’t be short on ability. I’ve got Chris Weatherd slightly ahead of Dillon Bates at the other OLB spot due to his physical development and experience playing the position at a higher level, but if Bates can prove that he is fully recovered from his shoulder injury then it will just be a matter of time before he makes his way to the field. Middle linebacker is anyone’s guess at this point and likely won’t be settled until fall camp. Jakob Johnson and Kenny Bynum ended the year in the two-deep – so I have to have them at the top until I see someone else. However, watch out for Gavin Bryant in 2015. Bryant redshirted last year and focused solely on learning the MLB position and could really surprise once spring practice starts. Darrin Kirkland Jr. will have a chance to make an impact, but missing spring and being limited in the weight room will really hurt his chances.

OLB: 1. Jalen Reeves-Maybin 2. Cortez McDowell
OLB: 1. Dillon Bates 2. Elliott Berry
ILB: 1. Gavin Bryant 2. Darrin Kirkland Jr. 

Thoughts: Jalen Reeves-Maybin is the only lock in this group – he should be on several preseason All-SEC teams. Does Maggitt get a shot at inside linebacker or will he primarily play defensive end? We’ll see. Since Tennessee primarily utilizes a 4-2-5 look, we’ll assume he sticks at end but he could, in theory, be a linebacker with JRM in nickel formations. Dillon Bates has a ton of upside and should challenge for a starting spot. Middle linebacker is the biggest question mark on this defense. We didn’t see much from him last year, but Gavin Bryant will get plenty of chances to prove himself at MLB, especially with Kirkland Jr. out with a torn pectoral muscle this spring. Kenny Bynum and Jakob Johnson will also get their shot – but they will have to play much better than they did last season to secure the starting job.

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