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Top 5 Position Battles to Watch in Camp


1. Middle linebacker

Darrin Kirkland-1

The A.J. Johnson era at inside linebacker came to a quicker-than-expected ending last year when he was suspended in November. That gave the Vols a little bit of time to work on finding a replacement for the future, but no long-term solution emerged. Kenny Bynum and Jakob Johnson certainly did some good things while filling in, and both are in contention this fall to win the job going forward. But a lot of the buzz has been about four-star freshman Darrin Kirkland Jr., who enrolled early, but missed spring practice due to injury. Add in the versatile Dillon Bates, Gavin Bryant and walk-on Colton Jumper, who has turned some heads this summer, and there is a lot of competition here.

What Butch Jones says about middle linebacker: “That is a position that obviously is going to be extremely competitive. You look at a number of individuals that are vying for that with Kenny Bynum, Colton Jumper, Darrin Kirkland Jr., Gavin Bryant, Dillon Bates, Jakob Johnson we get back from injury who had some valuable repetitions there…it’s also solidifying who are Mike linebacker is going to be, and also are backups at that spot as well.”


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