Daniel Bituli continues our countdown of the most important Vols for the 2018 season. Check out the rest here.
First, it was 23 total tackles against Georgia Tech. Next, it was a 97-yard pick-six against Alabama.
It’s safe to say that Vols’ linebacker Daniel Bituli made a tremendous impact in his first year as a starter and with a defensive-minded head coach in Jeremy Pruitt, his play should only get better from here.
The 6-foot-3, 244-pound linebacker will fit in nicely as a MIKE linebacker in Pruitt’s 3-4 scheme and figures to be an important piece of the front seven in 2018.
Bituli led the Vols with 90 tackles in 2017 and despite not recording a sack, it shouldn’t be unreasonable to expect that to change this season.
One doesn’t have to go too far to find a reasonable comparison in recent first-round pick Rashaan Evans out of Alabama. He played the MIKE in Pruitt’s scheme last year and finished with 74 tackles - 13 of those for a loss while adding six sacks.
Check out some highlights from Evans’ 2017 below. With the always-questionable health of fellow middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. and the continuous development of Quart’e Sapp, the onus will be on Bituli to help lead this defense.
Land don’t forget J.J. Peterson, if he can ever get his ass in gear.
Bituli won’t be in this alone, though. With Darrell Taylor, Jonathon Kongbo, and Deandre Johnson expected to provide an outside presence, Bituli will have plenty of supporting talent to help him excel in 2018.
As with just about every defense, the middle linebacker is expected to set the defense up -to make accurate calls in order to position the defense correctly - which is where Bituli struggled the most in 2017.
But that can easily be corrected and fortunately for Bituli, he has one of the top position coaches in Kevin Sherrer and one of the best defensive minds in Pruitt himself.
The sky is the limit for Bituli I’m 2018 and it won’t take much to get there.