Who Will be the Other Main Pass Rusher?
Redshirt senior outside linebacker Darrell Taylor has his starting job nailed down. He’s the leading returning sacker in the SEC this season, and he’ll be counted on to wreak havoc off the edge for Tennessee’s defense.
But who will be the other pass rusher who helps take the pressure off Taylor?
Last season, Deandre Johnson got the most snaps at the other outside linebacker spot once Jonathan Kongbo suffered a season-ending injury against Auburn, and he was inconsistent but flashed some potential. He picked up a sack in that Auburn game and got a second one in Tennessee’s win against Kentucky later in the season. But he wasn’t much of a factor in the other games he played in.
Kivon Bennett, who joined the Vols as a defensive lineman in 2017, has trimmed down and is now at outside linebacker. He surprised in the spring and looks like a player to watch this fall, but he’s only played sparingly in his two years at UT so far. Jordan Allen, who joined as a JUCO transfer last season, also failed to impress in 2018 and enters fall camp needed a strong showing to crack the two-deep.
Other than those players, Tennessee doesn’t return any pass rushers with any sort of collegiate experience.
Former four-star Roman Harrison is expected to start out at outside linebacker, and early enrollee Quavaris Crouch saw time at both inside and outside linebacker in the spring. Crouch will likely begin at inside linebacker, but lack of depth on the outside could necessitate a move there. Senior Daniel Bituli also practiced some at outside linebacker in the spring, though he’ll be starting at inside linebacker and likely only be used on the outside in certain packages.
Last year, Tennessee only got 12 sacks from their linebacking corps, and eight of those came from Darrell Taylor. The Vols can’t have that kind of unbalanced production again in 2019 if they want to have more success on defense.