In one week, the Tennessee Volunteers will take the field for the first time in 2020. We’ll get immediate answers to lingering questions out of camp, including what this new look pass rush will look like. Darrell Taylor is now in the NFL with the Seahawks, and how the Vols replace him is a massive question for this defense to answer.
Tennessee has a few veteran bodies on the edge, though they remain unproven. Kivon Bennett, Roman Harrison and Deandre Johnson are the natural fits as the next men up, but freshmen Tyler Baron and Morven Joseph could also factor into the equation.
Just a week before live game action though, Jeremy Pruitt isn’t exactly happy with where the position is at.
“It’s definitely not where we would like for it to be,” Pruitt admitted on Thursday. “That’s one thing we really have to focus on over the next nine days.”
Pruitt has been fairly positive during his review of the offense to this point, but he’s been tough on his defense, particularly the defensive line. You can now add the pass rushing outside linebackers to that category. As he points out though, it’s been tough to make much progress with ever changing numbers being available to practice.
“We’ve had a lot of guys in and out,” Pruitt said. “It’s really our whole team. We have a lot of experience coming back and as these guys get back out on the field and get going, that’s a positive with the experience that we have. We have a lot of guys that has played a lot of ball for us. We just have to get them going and get back into the groove a little bit. We’ve got to do that tomorrow, Saturday, Monday, Tuesday and over the next four days. We have to have a lot of competitive reps at practice to get used to the game speed.”
Tennessee had as many as 44 players miss practice two weeks ago due to contact tracing quarantine and injuries. It can’t be easy to find a groove when you can’t keep guys on the practice field.
Expect heavy rotations early across the roster as this staff tries to settle the depth chart in the early season. As for the pass rush, we’ve seen aggressive blitzing from Pruitt and Derrick Ansley in the past — I’d guess you’re going to see more of the same as this inexperienced edge group continues to develop.