KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — One of Tennessee’s most consistent contributors on defense this season wasn’t even supposed to a start a game.
The Vols called upon senior Colton Jumper to fill the role of middle linebacker after injury forced their hand. His opportunity came when Darrin Kirkland Jr. went down with a knee injury less than a week before the season opener against Georgia Tech.
Jumper has responded by routinely making plays in the middle of the defense. He has made a habit of finishing plays in opposing backfields, drawing the attention of defensive coordinator Bob Shoop.
“The guy is a good football player,” Shoop said. “Here is a guy who has 4 1/2 sacks and 7 tackles for loss, which is among the best in the county for both statistics. The reason he is good is because he gets the best out of his ability.”
Jumper ranks sixth in the country among linebackers for quarterback sacks this season. He is No. 17 among linebackers in the country for tackles for loss. In addition, Jumper has recorded 33 total tackles.
Shoop credited Jumper’s preparation between games for his strong play on the field.
“I watch him in the meeting and he’s taking notes as I review the game plan,” Shoop said. “I watch him in walkthroughs, and he’s coordinating the whole defense and pointing where everyone should go. Every rep in practice is as close to game speed as you can be in practice. He’s never out of position. To me, that’s half the battle.”
Jumper fits the mold of what Shoop wants out of a player, and he has excelled because of it. Shoop’s defenses can be complex, and Jumper’s play has allowed him to perform well in the system.
“The good defenses that I’ve coached in the past haven’t necessarily had 4- and 5-star athletes,” Shoop said. “They have had high football intellect, which he has, and tremendous desire to play the game. He loves the game and he loves to play. That’s what makes him unique. There’s probably more linebackers in this conference that were more highly recruited than him that don’t have 4 1/2 sacks and 7 tackles for loss after five games.
“So, I give him credit; when his number is called, he makes plays for the most part.”
Tennessee takes on South Carolina this Saturday. The Gamecocks rushed for 159 yards and passed for 199 yards in their 48-22 win over Arkansas last week.
Tennessee needs Jumper to continue his level of play when South Carolina comes to Knoxville, Tenn.
The post Tennessee MLB Colton Jumper continues strong play: ‘When his number is called, he makes plays’ appeared first on SEC Country.