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Linebacker Daniel Bituli critical for improved Vols’ defense in 2018

Daniel Bituli

Tennessee is switching from the 4-3 (four down linemen, three linebackers) to a 3-4 defensive alignment. Their linebackers will now be tested even more so going forward.

This means more opportunities for Daniel Bituli, and if 2017 is any indication, the junior from Nashville will be ready for the challenge.

Bituli led the Vols with 90 tackles. His 23-tackle performance in the season-opener against Georgia Tech was one of the top-ten defensive performances (in terms of tackles) in program history.

He showed off his tremendous athletic ability with a 97-yard pick-6 at Alabama, although that play is best remembered for Rashaan Gaulden’s two finger “salute” to the Crimson Tide student section that was seen on national television.

But Bituli often saw his snaps limited as the previous coaching staff preferred Colton Jumper at middle linebacker. Now that Jumper has graduated, you should see Bituli in that role a great deal this season. The Vols couldn’t stop the run in 2017 and need Bituli to have a big year to change that direction.

New Tennessee defensive coordinator Kevin Sherrer hasn’t seen Bituli in a “game situation” just yet… Bituli missed the spring game after having shoulder surgery this off season.

RELATED: Return of Trey Smith provides hope Vols need for 2018.

(Mark Nagi is the author of “Decade of Dysfunction: The Road to Tennessee’s Crazy Coaching Search,” which takes an in-depth look at the ten years of frustration that led to a revolt by Vols fans after UT attempted to hire Greg Schiano as its head coach in 2017.)

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