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How Many Starts Do the Vols Return at Each Position?


Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

Total: 52 starts

Darrin Kirkland Jr. – 16 (21)
Jonathan Kongbo – 12 (24)
Daniel Bituli – 8 (21)
Quart’e Sapp – 8 (18)
Darrell Taylor – 7 (18)
Austin Smith – 1 (19)

Just like with Tennessee’s defensive line, the numbers here are little skewed by position changes. Both Kongbo and Taylor made their combined 19 career starts as defensive ends, but now they’ll be playing as outside linebackers. The good news is that outside linebackers in a 3-4 defense are essentially the same as defensive ends in a 4-3 scheme, so their experience should translate just fine.

Despite missing all of last season with an injury, Darrin Kirkland Jr. is the most experienced returning player among Tennessee’s linebackers. Daniel Bituli and Quart’e Sapp played a lot last season and should be pivotal parts of the Vols’ defense this season as well.

The rest of Tennessee’s linebackers are mostly inexperienced players who still have a lot of upside. Austin Smith has been productive when he’s been healthy, and Deandre Johnson presents a lot of potential as an outside linebacker. JUCO transfer Jordan Allen brings some talent to this group as well, as does incoming freshman J.J. Peterson. Sophomore Will Ignont should find some playing time as well.

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