Tennessee’s all-time leader in sacks is going pro.
In what was an expected move, defensive end Derek Barnett announced on Tuesday afternoon that he will be foregoing his senior year to enter the 2017 NFL Draft, becoming the third UT player (Alvin Kamara and Josh Malone) to announce his intention to do so in recent days.
Barnett became UT’s all-time leader in sacks, breaking Reggie White’s previous mark, during the 38-24 victory over Nebraska in the Music City Bowl last Friday – recording his 33rd career sack in the closing minutes of the victory after recording multiple QB hurries earlier in the game.
It was a fitting finish for the former Brentwood Academy standout and Nashville-area native, who completed three dominant seasons in Knoxville, and is expected to be picked in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, perhaps as high as in the top 10.
While some draft analysts project Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett to be the No. 1 overall pick this year, nobody was as productive as Barnett over the past three seasons. In addition to his record-breaking 33 sacks, he also recorded 197 total tackles, 31 quarterback hurries and 19 TFLs during his UT career. Barnett was a consensus All-American in 2016, garnering First-Team honors from several accredited outlets.
He did all of that despite facing some of the best offensive tackles in the nations, regular double teams and seemingly being held on a regular basis – often without a flag being thrown.
His departure will lead to some heavy rebuilding at defensive end. Also exiting will be seniors Corey Vereen and LaTroy Lewis. That trio combined for 22.5 of UT’s 30 sacks on the season. But Barnett will also likely be UT’s first player to be picked in the first round since Cordarrelle Patterson was selected No. 29 overall in the 2013 draft by the Minnesota Vikings, giving Butch Jones and the staff some ammo on the recruiting trail after the team was shutout of the NFL Draft the past two seasons.
“It’s in great hands,” Barnett said of the program following the Music City Bowl. “We have a lot of talented young guys. They all want to get better and they are very competitive. I think it’s in good hands.”