5. Daniel Bituli, LB
As a sophomore in 2017, Daniel Bituli burst onto the scene with a huge performance against Georgia Tech. Bituli totaled 23 tackles and a forced fumble in the Vols’ season-opening double-overtime win against the Yellow Jackets, and that set him up for a solid sophomore campaign.
This past season, though, Bituli took a little step back.
In his junior year with Tennessee, Bituli totaled 79 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, a sack, and a pass defended in 12 games. At times he looked more disruptive in 2018 than he did in 2017, but overall he failed to take that next step that many anticipated, especially after amassing 90 tackles, three tackles for loss, three passes defended, a forced fumble, and an interception he returned for a touchdown as a sophomore.
The 6-foot-3, 243-pound inside linebacker was named the Most Improved Defensive Player for the Vols this spring, and that largely had to do with his improvement as a leader on UT’s defense. Bituli was much more vocal and active with teammates this spring, and he looks like he could be coming into his own. Not only that, but he started to show off his versatility more, practicing both with the inside and outside linebackers.
There’s a very good chance that as long as he stays healthy and proves that he can be a leader, Bituli will end up being drafted in the 2020 NFL Draft. If he can help the Vols’ defense take another step forward this season and improve his deficiencies in the process, look for him to sneak into the fourth or fifth round of next year’s draft.