The Tennessee defensive coaching staff has been thrown their fair share of curveballs this season. First it was senior defensive tackle Emmit Gooden losing his season in camp. Then it was a spine issue for senior nickelback Baylen Buchanan. Next is was a knee procedure for senior linebacker Daniel Bituli during the week of the Georgia State game.
What now? Well, inside linebackers Will Ignont and Shanon Reid have since left the program and Jeremy Banks has been kicked off the team. You’ll have to forgive first year defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley if his defense doesn’t take a step forward this year. He hasn’t exactly been dealt a winning hand so far in Knoxville.
With all the attrition at middle linebacker, Tennessee was forced to move some pieces around this week in practice. Freshman Quavaris Crouch, who has made some plays at outside linebacker for Tennessee, moved inside on Tuesday afternoon.
Crouch is a former elite running back prospect that Jeremy Pruitt convinced to play defense. His vision for Crouch sold him early on in his recruitment, propelling the Vols past Michigan and Clemson.
Crouch’s eye-popping sack numbers in high school suggested that he may be able to help Tennessee’s pass rush immediately. The Volunteers didn’t really have a solidified answer opposite of Darrell Taylor, so the door was open for Crouch to push for playing time. Early on, he’s gotten it. Crouch made a few stops against BYU, but has a little ways to go in terms of learning how to get around college offensive tackles.
But where will his 6-1 frame translate down the road at the NFL level? Likely as an inside linebacker. Crouch has an opportunity to be one of those ‘Bama type linebackers — Rashaan Evans, Dont’a Hightower, etc. — a guy who can do a little bit of everything within a front seven.
While this move may not be where he fits long term, learning the position can only help the Tennessee defense going forward in the next few years.