Tennessee 2019 Defensive Line
There are only 3 more Saturdays left until the opening of the 2019 season. The first game of the season kicks off on August 31st, and that’s when the real football actually starts. The Tennessee Volunteers open up against Georgia State at Neyland Stadium.
After losing the majority of their defensive line in 2018-2019, Tennessee looks to replenish what they lost. SEC games are won in the trenches. The 'big meanies' up front make the hole for running backs to slide through, while also staying in front of their man long enough to keep the quarterback upright as long as possible.
For defensive linemen, their best course of action is disruption. This season, Tennessee’s Defensive Line will have their work cut out for them as they have to replace two players who went to the NFL, while also dealing with inexperience.
Tennessee lost both Kyle Phillips (55 tackles and five sacks) and Shy Tuttle (33 tackles) to the NFL. Those two alone in 2018 made more tackles than the players on the line that will start against Georgia State combined.
Tennessee will have a lack of experience up front. Of the 11 defensive linemen listed on the roster, only 6 have seen gametime at the Divison I level. The other three are freshmen, and two other juniors who have transferred in.
However, the first two weeks of the season should provide chances for many of them to get their feet wet.
Emmit Gooden and Matthew Butler are two up front who have the most SEC experience. Gooden returns as the most experienced player on the line. Playing in all 12 games a year ago after coming in as a junior college transfer, he recorded 33 tackles (7 for loss) and a sack.
The senior is by far the Vols’ most experienced DL up front. Butler finished his Sophomore season with 13 tackles with one being for loss. He has seen 17 games in his first two years at Tennessee, and had good practices earlier this spring.
Tennessee spent last year recruiting a pair of JuCo transfers that are expected to make big contributions this season: Savion WIlliams and Darel Middleton. Williams was ranked as the top overall in the JuCo ranks, while Middleton checked in at 4th.
Both players are expected to have an immediate impact up front for the Vols. Aubrey Solomon is another player to look at, but it might be for 2020. The Junior lineman is currently waiting on the NCAA to approve, or deny, his waiver for immediate eligibility.
Solomon appeared in all 13 games his freshman year at Michigan, and spent most of this past season with a knee injury. While waiting on the NCAA to review his case, Solomon has been getting starter reps during practice.
With what might as well be a whole new unit, the Tennessee Defensive Line will be a key factor in how this season is measured. They are replacing three starters from a year ago that saw significant improvement under year one of Coach Jeremy Pruitt.
With the promising transfers that are coming in, and continuity playing a role, the defensive line is trending in the right direction going into year two.