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Where Tennessee Football’s Linebacker Room Stands After Portal Departure

Photo via Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee football lost its first player to the transfer portal of the spring period on Tuesday morning as junior linebacker Elijah Herring entered the portal.

Herring started for Tennessee at linebacker last season after BYU transfer Keenan Pili suffered a season-ending injury in the Vols’ season opener against Virginia. The Newnan, Georgia native who played his prep football at Riverdale High School in Murfreesboro recorded a team-best 79 tackles (32 solo tackles) to go along with one sack and one pass deflection.

So what does Tennessee’s inside linebacker room look like without Herring?

Even though he was a returning starter, it seemed unlikely that Herring was going to be a starter for Tennessee next season. Pili is back and will slide into one of the starting spots with one of sophomores Arion Carter or Jeremiah Telander most likely to slide into the starting spot beside him.

Both Telander and Carter were both backups as true freshmen last season and are talented young players. Even with Herring on the roster, it felt like both Telander and Carter were ahead of Herring on the depth chart.

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That’s why Herring’s departure is far from catastrophic but is a major blow to Tennessee’s depth at the spot. Behind the trio of Pili, Telander and Carter is junior Kalib Perry and redshirt freshman Jalen Smith.

Tennessee also signed two linebackers in its 2024 recruiting class— Edwin Spillman and Jordan Burns. Spillman early enrolled at Tennessee and went through spring practice. The former four-star recruit was a standout in Saturday’s Orange and White game at Neyland Stadium.

Spillman seems capable of pushing his way up the depth chart potentially as high as the two-deep though fall practice will tell us much more about that competition.

The Vols could also potentially look to add another linebacker body in the transfer portal in the spring period as they’re low on scholarship numbers.

But for now, Tennessee has Pili, Carter and Telander at the top of its depth chart and a handful of players battling out for the spots behind them.

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