Tennessee’s win at Auburn was a potential turning point for Jeremy Pruitt and the Vols, but they lost a defensive starter in the process. Jonathan Kongbo was putting together perhaps his best game as a Vol against the Tigers before exiting with a knee injury. That injury ended up being a torn ACL, ending Kongbo’s Tennessee career.
“Well it’s why we practice the way we do,” Pruitt said on Monday. “I hate it for Kongbo. He’s moved around since we have been here and he’s worked really hard. He’s been a guy that’s tried to do everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s going to graduate this semester, so he’s done a really good job academically. It’s unfortunate. It’s one of those deals where you would like if we’re going to have targeting fouls, you would like to have some of those cut blocks being reviewed.”
The fifth year senior failed to register a sack this year, but Tennessee can’t afford to lose too much depth on the edges. When one door closes, another one opens. Who is set to take on the snaps that Kongbo will vacate?
“With Deandre Johnson, Jordan Allen, Austin Smith, we have guys that have been working hard and have taken a lot of reps this year. Now they’ll get an opportunity,” Pruitt said.
Johnson is the guy that got most of the snaps on Saturday in the second half. In fact, the 6-3, 244 pound pass rusher got home for a sack on a stunt on a key fourth down stop late in the second half. The sophomore pass rusher appears to have all the tools necessary to be effective on the edge, now he’s going to get his chance to put all the pieces together.
Johnson will line up opposite Darrell Taylor, potentially forming a formidable pass rushing duo for the second half of the season. Allen and Smith will get bumped up a spot and become key depth players for Pruitt’s defense.
Tennessee seems to be turning a corner defensively, generating pressure and playing solid in the secondary, for the most part. Add Johnson to the long list of guys that we want to watch develop down the homestretch.