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Jeremy Pruitt thinks position change will allow Jonathan Kongbo to flourish

Jonathan Kongbo

Jonathan Kongbo’s apparent move from defensive end to outside linebacker shouldn’t be overly difficult under first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt. Known for making the game simpler so his players can play freely, Pruitt won’t likely push technique and fundamentals on Kongbo, who announced he was moving to outside linebacker via social media recently.

“The thing we’re looking for is who can change a game by being a pass rusher,” Pruitt said during a recent appearance on WGOW. “I can teach my wife to take first in the flat. That’s not real hard. That’s the easy part. The hard part is being a difference on the edge.

“That’s a priority for us for sure. To me, you can watch it on Sundays, you can watch it on Saturdays, you can watch it on Friday night.”

Pruitt said he’s seen successful pass rushers use all kinds of techniques, many of which wouldn’t be considered fundamentally sound by more traditional standards. Pruitt said he’s seen players successfully rush the passer while standing or from a three-point stance. Pruitt said he’s even seen players successfully rush the quarterback with their outside hand on the ground, which would again be considered poor fundamentals by most coaches.

Pruitt isn’t worried about such intricacies.

“It’s about do they bend, do they have get off, do they have the instincts to play the position,” Pruitt said.

RELATED: Quarterback JT Shrout could be a diamond in the rough for Vols.

Kongbo would seem to be that type of guy. He’s listed at 6-foot-6 and 264 pounds and is thought to have good explosion despite his lack of production. Kongbo posted just 2 ½ sacks and 29 tackles last season. He’s only posted 3 ½ sacks in his two full seasons at UT.

Pruitt has also often said that it should be easier for most defensive players to have an early impact in college. Could that be the same case for a player who is transitioning to a new position such as Kongbo? Certainly the Vols are hoping so and so should Kongbo.

It’s hard to find a much bigger bust in the Butch Jones era than Kongbo, who was once rated the top prospect in junior college when he signed with the Vols in 2016.

Tennessee needs a pass rusher to field a disruptive defense. It’s incredibly difficult to find one on the roster. Of UT’s returning players, they only accounted for 14 sacks last season. The Vols registered 22 sacks last season. For comparison’s sake, Pruitt’s last defense at Alabama had 37 ½ sacks in 2017. That’s probably not going to happen for the Vols this season.

However, if Kongbo can be nearly as productive as his recruiting ranking would suggest, the Vols would be far better off. Making the transition as easy as possible could be a good way of accomplishing that goal.

RELATED: Keep an eye on sophomore Theo Jackson in Vols reworked secondary.

(You can follow Dave Hooker on Twitter @TheDaveHooker)

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