Vols Among Favorites for Elite 2019 Linebacker

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    (Photo via @donte_starks8 on Twitter)

    Tennessee picked up a commitment from the top junior college linebacker in the 2019 class this weekend, and now another highly-rated linebacker is showing a lot of interest in the Vols.

    Donte Starks is a high four-star inside linebacker from Marrero, Louisiana. He took to Twitter on Tuesday to announce his top 10 teams moving forward in his recruitment, and the Vols made the cut along with a handful of other SEC schools.

    Starks is the No. 42 overall player and No. 3 inside linebacker in the 2019 class according to 247Sports. Their composite rankings have him rated as the No. 124 overall player and sixth-best inside linebacker in the class.

    Though he has yet to visit Tennessee, he’s held an offer from the Vols since January of 2017. He also has offers from Clemson, Auburn, Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Texas, and many others. He recently unofficially visited Florida and unofficially visited Auburn back in March. Starks had named LSU as his leader in January, but it’s unclear if he still feels that way after releasing a more in-depth list of schools.

    Starks played in Biloxi, Mississippi to start his high school career but transferred to John Ehret High School in Louisiana. The Vols offered Starks’ teammate Travis Mumphrey earlier this year. Mumphrey is the team’s starting quarterback and had one of the most impressive completion percentages in high school football last season.

    At 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, Starks will need to add a few extra pounds to play inside linebacker in college. But he already has the strength necessary, and that’s displayed on his highlight film. He’s also fairly speedy and doesn’t let running backs get away from him. He’s an explosive athlete and is a very physical player.

    As a junior, Starks totaled 82 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and a fumble recovery according to MaxPreps. He also played a little on offense, carrying the ball 24 times for 135 yards and four touchdowns.

    The Vols got a commitment from four-star JUCO linebacker Laika Henry in their 2019 class this weekend. Henry is the No. 1 JUCO linebacker and No. 3 overall JUCO prospect according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. But aside from Henry, the Vols don’t have another linebacker committed yet in the 2019 cycle.

    With Darrin Kirkland Jr. set to leave the Vols’ roster after this season and with the possibility of Daniel Bituli declaring early for the draft after this year, Tennessee will need to add a couple inside linebackers in this class. Expect Jeremy Pruitt and his staff to continue to go after Starks.

    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.