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Tennessee Football: Hoke talks Kyle Phillips, Jonathan Kongbo, Ten man rotation

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Hoke sheds some light on the defensive line.

Arizona State v Oregon Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Tennessee defensive line coach Brady Hoke spoke to media following Sunday’s practice. He shed some light on the happenings up front, seeming pleased with the group he’s got in his first year in Knoxville.

Hoke particularly spoke highly of defensive end Kyle Phillips. “It’s great to have him out there. It’s great to have him out there healthy,” Hoke said. “He’s done a really good job, he’s got great leadership, he loves to play the game, he’s got great effort. He’s been impressive.”

“You watch film and you see the backside end sprinting down the field to cut off the ballcarrier — I mean, that’s Kyle Phillips. That’s something that you try and show to all of the young guys.”

Just reading the tealeaves here, it sounds like Phillips has a leg up on Darrell Taylor for the defensive end job opposite of Jonathan Kongbo. Hoke mentioned that Taylor “has come out and played hard everyday,” but also admits that it “hasn’t always been perfect.” Nonetheless, Taylor will have a huge role on this team whether he starts or not.

Speaking of Kongbo, Hoke also spoke highly of the junior end. “This summer he was on a mission to become more of a complete football player. His weight is up to about 273 or 275 — he’s handling that well. He just has matured.”

Anytime Butch Jones or anyone on the Tennessee staff get a chance to talk about Kongbo, the reviews have been glowing. Let’s hope they’re right, because Tennessee is going to have to get big time production out of him to replace Derek Barnett.

Hoke also mentioned that they are trying to find where talented freshman defensive lineman Matthew Butler fits the best. He noted that they wanted to run about 10 deep along the defensive line, so those young guys definitely are going to get their opportunities early.

He also singled out freshman Kivon Bennett in a similar light, so look for those two to be a part of that 10 deep rotation up front. Tennessee certainly seems deeper in the trenches this season, which was a major shortcoming in 2016. You can never have enough bodies in the trenches. We’ll see if that translates to some more wins this season.