Kongbo Steps Up Against Missouri

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    Photo Credit: John Golliher/UT Athletics

    Photo Credit: John Golliher/UT Athletics

    Though he’s seen the field sparingly, it’s still been an eventful few weeks for Tennessee defensive lineman Jonathan Kongbo, one of the highest-rated and most-anticipated members of the 2016 signing class.

    Following the loss at South Carolina, Kongbo tweeted a photo out of cleats hanging up – normally a sign of retiring or quitting – that Butch Jones later explained away as him referring to a FIFA video game. The week before the Kentucky game, Jones, when asked about Kongbo’s development, indicated that he needed to work on buying into the team concept a bit more. That felt like a veiled call to action for the former five-star recruit.

    And with Tennessee paper thin at defensive tackle, it’s been odd that the Vols have turned to just about anybody else to help fill the void before the Missouri game. Kongbo, a 270-pounder, was recruited as a defensive end, but seemed like somebody who could slide inside and help in UT’s time of need at the position.

    That all finally came to fruition on Saturday against the Tigers. Kongbo checked into the game in the first quarter and played some of his first true defensive tackle reps of the season. The results were, at times, impressive.

    He recorded a TFL on one of his first snaps, and then sealed the victory with a 59-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter.

    “You saw a little bit of speed,” Jones said. “I thought that was really good and the way our players reacted in reading the screen. They had heard a switch with the middle screen by the tight end earlier in the game, and he did a good job of retracing it and catching the ball. You saw a little bit of speed and burst at the end.”

    And you saw a little bit more from Kongbo overall. That’s a good sign for a player who has been under the microscope for several weeks.