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Tennessee DC Tim Banks Sees Opportunity In Secondary Departures

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee football is facing a major defensive back overhaul after seven players and three starters entered the transfer portal earlier this month.

While seniors Jaylen McCollough and Gabe Jeudy-Lally remain in the starting lineup, the rest of the Vols’ starters will be young players who have yet to play a major role on Tennessee’s defense.

Where some see doom in the Vols’ secondary options in the Citrus Bowl, defensive coordinator Tim Banks sees opportunity.

“I think the keyword is opportunity,” Banks said. “Obviously, we’ve had some transition back there. We wish those guys the best and we’re super happy for the guys that are here. So they’re going to be great opportunities. Some guys that play some, some not, that I haven’t played at all. At the end of the day we believe in the standard regardless of who’s out there. …  I know these guys have worked really hard and every single person in that room believes in them. And we’re looking forward to watching them perform this Monday.”

The portal departures and opt outs change the dynamic of bowl games across the country. Bowl games used to be the final bow on a season and while they’re still that to some degree they’re also now a preview for the upcoming season.

More From RTI: What Tennessee Players Said About Nico Iamaleava Ahead Of Citrus Bowl

Nowhere is that more true than at Tennessee where Nico Iamaleava and Dylan Sampson will start at quarterback and running back respectively on top of the number of secondary players stepping into bigger roles.

A number of young Tennessee defensive backs— most notably freshman corner Rickey Gibson III and safety/STAR Jourdan Thomas— were already going to step into bigger roles next season. Now, they get a one-game head start and will kick off their increased workload eight months early.

“We’re confident in our whole team,” Banks said. “The standard is the standard, as cliche as that may sound. We’ve preached that from the beginning of the camp to obviously the bowl game. Regardless who’s in the game, there’s a certain level of expectations that come with stepping out on that field. And those guys understand that. … I think those guys have worked their tail off, or they’ve been working their tail off, and they’re excited about that challenge.”

The good news for Tennessee and its young secondary is that they’re facing an Iowa passing attack that ranks as one of the nation’s worst. Kickoff between Tennessee and Iowa is at 1 p.m. ET on New Year’s Day. ABC is broadcasting the game.

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