1. Jonathan Kongbo, DE/LB
Remember Jonathan Kongbo’s recruitment? He was the top junior college defensive end in the 2016 class and was considered a five-star by some services. He committed to the Vols but then decommitted late in the cycle. Tennessee’s coaching staff put on a full court press to try and get Kongbo back, and he ultimately signed with Tennessee on National Signing Day.
Expectations were sky high for Kongbo, and maybe that wasn’t fair considering he had only played football for a few years and was definitely a raw prospect, albeit a raw prospect with a ton of physical tools to work with. Regardless, he has never found his stride at Tennessee.
Kongbo appeared in all 13 of Tennessee’s games in 2016, but he didn’t really start producing until late in the season. There was drama surrounding him almost all year, and his now infamous tweet with cleats hanging up was the climax. Last season looked to be his moment in the sun as he stepped into a bigger role as one of the Vols’ starting defensive ends. He played in 11 games and started 10, but once again, he never consistently showed off his talent.
There have been flashes of brilliance for Kongbo in his Tennessee career. His 59-yard interception return for a score against Missouri in 2016 is one, and his seven tackle performance against Florida last year is another. But there have been just as many, if not more, performances in games by him that have left Vol fans scratching their heads.
This year is Kongbo’s last year as a Vol. He arguably had the highest expectations of anyone on the roster when he first joined Tennessee, and his production has been the most lacking. He doesn’t have injuries to fall back on as an excuse either. This is a make or break year for him, and he undoubtedly has the most to prove.