COLUMBIA, S.C. — There might not be a bigger junior college disappointment this season than Tennessee defensive lineman Jonathan Kongbo, who has made more headlines with his Twitter account that his play.
Kongbo, the No. 1-ranked junior college recruit in the 2016 class, is a 6-foot-6, 284-pound physical marvel who flashed potential in fall camp before the Vols put the pads on and started hitting.
It’s clear Kongbo would rather play defensive end, where the style of football is not as physical and double-teams aren’t as common, but Tennessee’s biggest need is at defensive tackle.
The Vols are missing four defensive tackles because of injuries and attrition, while they are solid at defensive end with Derek Barnett, Corey Vereen and fifth-year senior LaTroy Lewis.
Kongbo has yet to make a tackle in five SEC games, but Vols coach Butch Jones attempted to take up for him this week when his play was called into question.
“He’s setting in, (and) we had a talk yesterday in the hallway, just how much more comfortable he feels,” Jones said last week. “A lot of it is understanding the power of ‘why.’ Why are we moving the front, where is your gap fit. Understanding leveraging the football and pursuit angles, and the game is starting to slow down for him.
“He says, ‘Coach I feel so much more comfortable, I feel more at home now.’”
Kongbo has left room for some to speculate if his feelings have changed with a tweet from his account on Sunday, a picture of cleats hanging up — a common reference to “hanging up the cleats” or leaving the game of football.
It’s unlikely a player with Kongbo’s athleticism would leave a sport that could be lucrative, but he might considering leaving Tennessee based on his history.
The 20-year-old Kongbo has moved around a good bit, leaving British Columbia after high school and starting his career at Wyoming before transferring to Arizona Western College and then Tennessee.
All things must come to an end pic.twitter.com/Zd9YuNLNnD
— Jonathan Kongbo (@Kongbo_1) October 30, 2016