Maybe it’s not the traditional signing day surprise, but it’ll work if you’re a Tennessee fan. The Volunteers landed BYU linebacker Keenan Pili out of the transfer portal on Wednesday, filling a veteran need at the position.
With Jeremy Banks exiting the program, Tennessee needed a veteran to fill his spot on the depth chart. The Volunteers are expected to return Juwan Mitchell and Aaron Beasley, but didn’t have much experience behind those top two. With Pili now in the picture, things have changed in a big way.
Tennessee adds a veteran former team captain, complete with a total of 190 tackles and four seasons worth of experience. Just finishing up his redshirt-junior season, Pili has played in 36 games so far in his career. He should have one season of eligibility remaining.
The Volunteers have a really solid linebacker group coming in, with four-star Arion Carter leading the way. Three-stars Jalen Smith and Jeremiah Telander round out the depth, giving Tennessee some much-needed numbers at the position.
But the experience of Pili can’t be underestimated. Last season, Pili was credited with 62 tackles and four tackles for loss. He came up with a sack and a forced fumble, along with a fumble recover before his season was cut short due to injury.
Pili did appear in the BYU win over Tennessee back in 2019, registering two tackles.
Now with Mitchell, Beasley and Pili, Tennessee has the experienced bodies in the teeth of the defense for 2023. They’ve also got plenty of depth behind, considering the addition of the 2023 recruiting class, along with Kwauze Garland, Kalib Perry and Elijah Herring.