The defense left spring practice with a lot more answers than questions on defense, but one large issue remaining is who will fill the void at inside linebacker with the departure of A.J. Johnson.
Butch Jones addressed that question during his turn on the SEC Football Teleconference on Wednesday afternoon.
“Well we continue to still be work in progress at the linebacker position,” Jones said. “Not having Darrin Kirkland Jr. available through the course of the spring really hurt us. He’s a young man we brought in here – he’s extremely competitive, very intelligent.
“Also, Jakob Johnson did not participate in spring practice, so we’re excited to get Jakob back. We’re excited to get Darrin back, but you know, again Dillon Bates made some progress and he had been out of football for about a year with his injury so that continues to be a position of concern that we need to continue to improve at.
Redshirt junior Kenny Bynum left spring as somewhat of a de facto starter after getting the first-team reps for much of spring and in the Orange and White Game. Jones saw some good things from him as well and mentioned one new name – outside linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin – as somebody who could slide into the position in situations as well.
“I thought Kenny Bynum took some steps forward as well, and we’ll ask Jalen Reeves-Maybin to play there a bit, and move some players around,” Jones said. “So again, the young individuals that gain those reps in the spring, they have to apply that and summer is going to be critical for all the individuals we spoke about.”