Tennessee added size, depth on defensive line to improve run defense

Tennessee is looking to recapture its glory from the 1990s. Join us daily at SEC Country for the latest Tennessee recruiting news and notes on the next crop of Volunteers. Check out previous editions  here . In this edition, we discuss Tennessee and the defensive line haul in the Class of 2018.

Likely difference makers

Tennessee signed six defensive linemen in the Class of 2018. It clearly was a position the coaching staff felt needed to be overhauled. The class gives the Vols the foundation for what they want to do up front.

As far as immediate impact goes, it appears there is only one prospect the staff will be leaning on this fall.

Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker wants big, physical linemen who can control the line scrimmage. He spoke at the National Signing Day celebration and gave a rundown on all six signees. Junior college prospect Emmit Gooden is someone who could be a leader next season.

“He has the size and maturity,” Rocker said. “What we are looking for from him is leadership. That’s the thing with bringing in a guy this old. He’s a 300-pounder and can play nose tackle. He can hold the point of attack and stop the run.”

Stopping the run will be a point of emphasis with this staff. Coach Jeremy Pruitt comes from Alabama, and it is extremely tough to run the ball on the Crimson Tide. The Vols had the second-worst run defense in the Power 5 last season.

Gooden could help. Tennessee is switching to a 3-4 system that requires the defensive tackle to occupy multiple blockers and stop the run in the trenches. Expect Gooden to get plenty of opportunities to show what he can do.

Greg Emerson is an early enrollee from Jackson, Tenn. I thought he was a player who could get on the field and contribute next season. Rocker said he probably won’t get much playing time early, but has a lot of potential.

Emerson has a 6-foot-3, 275-pound frame and claims to run around a 4.5 40-yard dash. That size and athleticism likely won’t keep him off the field for long. He is rehabbing an ankle injury that caused him to miss his senior season. There will some rust to knock off when he returns.

I’ve been told by a former NFL player familiar with Emerson that he has NFL first-round draft potential. It is all about how hard he pushes himself.

Wait and see

Brant Lawless, from Nashville, Tenn., will be an interesting prospect to follow while at Tennessee. The Butch Jones commit is about 6-1, 290 pounds and isn’t quite as big as the linemen the Vols will recruit in the future.

Lawless is athletic enough with a high motor, which should get him on the field in the future. The staff will surely try to bulk him up when he gets on campus.

Kurott Garland would have signed with Tulane last Wednesday if the Vols had landed some other prospects. He was wildly productive in high school, though. He had 125 tackles last season, 43 for loss. There will be a huge step up in competition for Garland, but his motor never stops. Rocker and Pruitt are hoping he’s the steal of the class.

Pruitt’s first commit on Rocky Top was Kingston Harris, who fits the profile of the future defensive tackles who will be recruited. He is 6-4, 300 pounds with long arms.

Harris might be headed toward a redshirt season.

John Mincey was one of the few positive surprises for Tennessee on Signing Day. He was a South Carolina lean leading up to last week.

This is a nice win for the coaching staff. South Carolina has done a good job under Will Muschamp of finding 3-star defensive linemen who are very talented.

Mincey is 6-4, 255 pounds and could play defensive end or be an edge rusher from the linebacker position. Pruitt values flexibility on his defense and Mincey brings it.

In case you miss any in SEC County’s position breakdown series.

Tennessee coordinator on unsettled QB situation: ‘We’ll find guys we can win with’

Roster breakdown: Jeremy Banks gives Vols big RB they desired

Tennessee roster breakdown: WR Alontae Taylor going to stretch field, pose threat

Early enrollee OL might push for playing time by impressing coaches

Miss a previous edition? Find all your SEC Country Tennessee Vols recruiting news  here .

The post Tennessee added size, depth on defensive line to improve run defense appeared first on SEC Country.

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