KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee defensive lineman Alexis Johnson Jr. collapsed the offensive line pocket with power, and then with great quickness nearly snared a loose ball before it hit the ground for what would have been an interception.
It was only one play in a goal-line scrimmage on Friday, but it was another sign the Vols defensive line will show the great improvement many expected when Brady Hoke was hired in the offseason to coach that position group.
Hoke said last Sunday that Johnson was “more engaged” with the defense and was making progress.
Tennessee coach Butch Jones said Friday that Johnson still has work to do, and there’s still not enough depth on the defensive line.
“We need a lot more [from Johnson], we need the mental stamina, the physical stamina in terms of getting yourself in football shape,” Jones said of the 6-foot-4, 300-pound redshirt junior from Atlanta. “You have to have the ability to think strategically when you are winded, especially in a 1-minute situation — that’s where a defense really has to come to play, to be able to have that great get-off [at the snap].
“He’s coming along, but we’re going to continue to need more from him.”
Jones said defensive end Darrell Taylor and defensive tackle Kendal Vickers have been consistent, and defensive end Jonathan Kongbo “has done some good things” in fall drills.
“I’ve seen flashes from all of them,” Jones said. “It’s the No. 6 D-lineman, the No. 7, the No. 8; it’s a lot of those individuals we have to get ready in a hurry, [freshman] Kivon Bennett. They have to understand their time could be now.”