KNOXVILLE — Tennessee’s defense has the headliners, but as is the case with any championship contender, more players are ready to emerge.
The Vols return eight starters from a unit that ranked second in the nation in third down conversion defense and 36th in total defense.
New Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, who has led less-talented units at Vanderbilt and Penn State to top 25 defensive rankings each of the last five years, figures to make UT even more formidable.
Tennessee will rely on such veterans as first-team All-SEC selections Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Derek Barnett and Cameron Sutton, but a pair of newcomers also figure to contribute on defense.
Shoop told SEC Country that junior college defensive lineman Jonathan Kongbo, 6-foot-6 and 282 pounds, has impressed in the offseason workouts.
Of the incoming freshmen defenders, defensive back Nigel Warrior has stood out.
“Heading into fall camp those two would be the most likely of the newcomers to play,” Shoop said. “Kongbo is physically very imposing, he’s eager and he’s done a great job the past two months getting stronger and faster.
“Remember, football is still fairly new to him. He played high school football in British Columbia for a year, went to Wyoming and then a junior college in Yuma (Arizona Western), so it’s not like he’s a 19-year veteran.”
Warrior, the son of former UT All-American and four-time NFL Pro Bowl defensive back Dale Carter, has been playing football all of his life.
Shoop says it shows.
“Warrior is very natural, and the game seems to come easy to him in that he’s very fluid in his movements,” Shoop said. “I feel like with all of the different packages we have, featuring multiple defensive backs, it will be hard to keep him off the field when all is said and done.”
Tennessee opens practice on Monday, and ithe first day of padded practice is scheduled for Saturday.
The Vols open the season on Thursday, Sept. 1, against Appalachian State at Neyland Stadium.
Here’s a look at the Facebook Live interview Warrior did with SEC Country before reporting to the Vols for summer school:
Tennessee signee Nigel Warrior talks Vols football
Posted by Tennessee Volunteers Insiders on Thursday, May 26, 2016