8. Elijah Simmons, DT
With senior defensive lineman Emmit Gooden being lost for the season due to a torn ACL, Tennessee’s already questionable defensive line was presented a whole new host of questions. Gooden was penciled in by many as a starter for the Vols along the defensive line, but now he won’t be able to contribute the entire 2019 season.
With Gooden down for the season, Tennessee will be relying even more heavily on inexperienced linemen to contribute. One of those will likely be true freshman Elijah Simmons.
The gargantuan Simmons is listed at around 6-foot-1, 340 pounds, but he doesn’t move like his weight would suggest. So far in fall camp, Simmons’ quick feet and athleticism has stood out, and he has the kind of size that no other player on UT’s roster can boast. When Tennessee is in their base 3-4 defense, Simmons could easily be the nose tackle. He could even work his way into the rotation when the Vols have four down linemen.
If Aubrey Solomon isn’t granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA, then the likelihood of Simmons contributing significantly as a true freshman is even greater. Even if Solomon does get to play in 2019, there’s a good chance Simmons will see action in more than just four games and preserving his redshirt status. Conditioning will be the key for Simmons, but he looks in line to make a mark in his first year.