Coaching changes typically bring position changes as the new staff tries to maximize what they’ve inherited. That statement is very much true with Bryson Eason, a former four-star inside linebacker prospect who signed with the Volunteers as a part of the 2020 class.
On the surface, it may seem strange to pull a player away from the middle linebackers, considering the massive numbers struggle at that position. However, Eason has the looks of an outside linebacker who can play on the line of scrimmage, so that’s where he landed this spring as Tim Banks and a new defensive staff arrived.
On Wednesday, Eason explained his new role to the media.
“In this defense, I play ‘LEO’ which is also known as outside linebacker,” Eason said. “My role is basically to get vertical and play on the other side of the ball. We are going to be tough and smart. We will be very attentive to details in everything we do.”
Eason was the 301st ranked prospect in the 2020 class and the 16th ranked inside linebacker, per 247Sports. The Memphis native now weighs 275 pounds, according to the official spring roster from Tennessee. That’s clearly a little too heavy for inside linebacker, but he fits the bill to man a spot on the edge.
The sophomore linebacker appeared sparingly in six games during the 2020 season, but he’s now set to enter the outside linebacker rotation this fall.
“I never thought I’d ever be playing outside linebacker,” Eason admitted. “I dreamed of playing inside. I love watching linebackers like Ray Lewis and Luke Kuechly. I studied those guy’s game. It kind of broke my heart a little bit to know just for weight and size wise, I have to move down. But at the end of the day, I love football and I just embraced the situation. I’m trying to learn more about it. I have a great teammate as well who knows more about the position than me in Tyler Baron. He and Byron, we are always helping each other. They are trying to help me get familiar with the position.”
Tyler Baron and Byron Young appear to be the top guys on the edge for Tennessee. Roman Harrison will play into that equation, while a guy like Morven Joseph could do a little bit of everything for Banks. Eason appears firmly in the mix though, and should see plenty of playing time in 2021.
The front seven will be interesting to watch this weekend during the spring game. We know the numbers at inside linebacker are an issue, but I’ll be looking for progress on the edge and looking to see what role each player ends up in.