KNOXVILLE — Tennessee freshman linebacker Daniel Bituli has lived up to his billing this summer, and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop predicts a bright future for the Nashville Christian product.
“First and foremost, his family background is prideful and the work ethic and attention to detail comes through from that,” Shoop said of the Congo native. “Secondly, he played for a state championship program, and I have the utmost respect for the job Coach (Jeff) Brothers and his staff did with him.
“Daniel is certainly a big, strong, unique sort of athlete.”
John Crosby, defensive coordinator at Nashville Christian High School, said the work ethic and blend of size and speed sets Bituli apart.
“He loves to study the game of football, (and) his work ethic is what makes him so good,” Crosby said. “He’s extremely fast and quick for his size. He moves like a skill position player, and yet he weighs 240.”
Shoop said Bituli currently projects as a middle linebacker, a position that requires great knowledge and understanding of the defense.
“He has a ways to go because as a defensive signal caller, he’s not there yet,” Shoop said. “But he watches (Darrin) Kirkland and (Jalen) Reeves-Maybin and learns from them.”
Kirkland is a 230-pound sophomore, and Reeves-Maybin is a 230-pound senior, so Bituli’s size and weight (6-foot-3, 235 pounds) figure to be a consideration moving forward.
Shoop said he envisions Tennessee making use of Bituli’s raw athleticism and skills however he’s able to this season.
“I think he has a chance to be a special, special teams player this season,” Shoop said, “and it wouldn’t surprise me if by next spring, he’s in the mix and is on his way to being a two- or thee-year starter.”
Bituli indicated entering into Tennessee camp this summer that with God on his side, great things are possible.
Mike Griffith is based in Knoxville and covers Tennessee athletics for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and SEC Country.