Tennessee defensive coordinator Tim Banks took to the podium one more time before the Volunteers open their 2022 season against Ball State next week. He gave a complete preview of his unit after going through fall camp, including updates on player development and certain position battles.
Here are the notes.
Going into year No. 2, it’s nice to not have to start from ground zero. Though Tennessee has some veterans to replace this season, they’ve got some experienced guys returning, too. Banks says (obviously) that has made things easier this month.
“Obviously, going through another spring, a summer, a lot of the base principles that we had in place, I think those guys really truly understand it,” Banks said. “Now we’ve obviously got some new guys in the program that are kind of working their way through it, but if you wanted to say where we are now based on where we were a year ago, we’re definitely ahead and feel like we’re heading in the right direction.”
Who stood out in camp?
Training camp has wrapped up and Tennessee went through a mock game week over the last few days. So who stood out to Banks?
“I think Tyler Baron has had a really good camp for us,” Banks told the media. “I feel like on the back end, T-Mac (Tamarion McDonald) has come along. He’s doing a tremendous job for us, along with Tank (Jaylen McCollough) and (Trevon) Flowers, and then obviously B.Y. (Byron Young), he jumps out.”
Baron and Young have received plenty of praise throughout the last few weeks as both appear to really be answering the call. McDonald is battling for a starting gig at the STAR spot, which is a key role within this defense.
Kamal Hadden and Christian Charles
Sticking with some secondary notes, Banks offered his thoughts on Kamal Hadden and Christian Charles — two guys that appear to be in the thick of the top cornerback rotation.
“Hadden is very athletic,” Banks said. “He’s a tough kid. He has a tremendous amount of confidence and energy and juice. Obviously being able to get him back has been very important to us, able to get more reps and obviously clean up some things that he wanted to work on, some things that we identified coming out of last fall. He’s really worked very hard. We’re excited to see him play next weekend.”
Charles has moved from safety to cornerback this offseason, and the early results continue to be promising.
“As far as Charles goes, he’s been a warrior. He’s a kid that’s extremely physical. He’s a guy that has the ability to obviously play on the hash. He obviously got some reps at corner, but I think his overall grasp of the package has improved greatly. I think he understands a lot more in detail in terms of what we’re trying to get accomplished based on every different coverage that we have in, and I think obviously that will bode well for him moving forward.”
Joshua Josephs and James Pearce
We know about Baron and Young, but a couple of highly-touted freshmen are in the mix behind them. Joshua Josephs and James Pearce are going to give Tennessee some much needed depth coming off of the edge, something they really haven’t had in a few years.
“We’re excited, man,” Banks admitted. “Those guys have been as good as advertised in terms of the athleticism that they bring to the table, their length. They’re polished in terms of they come from good football programs. We feel like they were prepared as much as you can be coming to the collegiate level, so we anticipate them playing. I think those guys will obviously contribute. How much, we’ll see, but we are counting on those guys.
“We need those guys to play well for us to continue to grow this defense and bring some added speed and athleticism to it, to the defense.”
Moving to the linebackers, Tennessee is in a pretty good spot here. It’s a veteran led group with four guys that have been there and done all that. Jeremy Banks leads the way, while Aaron Beasley, Juwan Mitchell and Solon Page will all be in the equation.
“I feel a ton better about it, to be quite honest with you, and Ju (Mitchell) has really picked up where he left off before he got dinged up last fall,” Banks said. “He has a better grasp of the defense, I should say. He’s been better in terms of his leadership, trying to be more coval, taking command on the defense, so to speak. So he’s been good, I think he’s in a good place. I think he’s ready to go and he’s tuned up.
“But I think with Jeremy (Banks) and obviously (Aaron) Beasley, you put Pakk (Kwauze Garland) in there, we feel like we’ve got some guys that’ll be able to contribute. Page (Solon Page III) is another guy who comes to mind.”
Tennessee made a couple of much-needed additions in the secondary, bolstering the depth of a group that is tasked with replacing Theo Jackson and Alontae Taylor. Wesley Walker, a guy that has played quite a bit of college ball, is a potential fit at STAR. Andre Turrentine is younger, and still getting his feet wet.
“We like Wes a ton,” Banks said of Walker. “‘Dre’s a little bit younger, so he’s still working his way through it, just like most freshmen. Obviously at the other spot (Ohio State), he was there a year, but in our minds he’s really just a freshman. Wes has obviously played some snaps, even though it was somewhere else (Georgia Tech), so he has a little bit more of a veteran mentality. Obviously he’s been in some battles, so we expect him to contribute and have an opportunity to really help this defense moving forward.”