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2017 Tennessee Impact Players - Jonathan Kongbo

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Can Kongbo be the one to replace Derek Barnett’s production?

NCAA Football: Missouri at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee has a lot of production to replace on the defensive line after the early departure of Derek Barnett to the NFL. After a less-than-spectacular first year in Knoxville, Jonathan Kongbo will look to be the one who can be a difference-maker for the Vols up front.

Kongbo joined the Vols in 2016, ranked by 247Sports as a four-star (0.9584) recruit and the #1 junior college player in the country. Kongbo had offers from more than 20 Power 5 schools, including the likes of Alabama, Florida State and Ole Miss.

Kongbo came into Tennessee with a ton of hype and was expected by many fans to make an impact immediately. However, it took Kongbo a while to get acclimated to the stage of the SEC. He finished the 2016 season with 11 tackles, one sack and one interception, which was returned for a touchdown.

Obviously the level of competition in the video above isn’t nearly what it is in the SEC, but Kongbo’s potential is readily apparent. He is a physical specimen at 6’6”, 270 pounds. With another offseason under his belt, I think it’s fair to expect a sizable uptick in Kongbo’s production in 2017.

Tennessee’s defense faltered down the stretch last season, and it will largely go as the front four goes this year. With the void left by the loss of both starting defensive ends, Kongbo has an opportunity to make a big impact for Bob Shoop’s defense this fall.