One of the biggest issues the Tennessee Vols will face in 2021 is depth — specifically at the inside linebacker position.
Tennessee’s top two inside linebackers from last season — Henry To’o To’o and Quavaris Crouch — are currently in the transfer portal (neither player is with the team and the odds of a reunion with either are slim).
Another inside linebacker, Aaron Beasley, is suspended due to a horrific incident with a cat. It’s very likely that he won’t return to the team.
Martavius French and Aaron Willis are also suspended after being arrested in March on “charges related to misdemeanor drug possession”.
Jeremy Banks is the Vols’ top returning inside linebacker (Banks struggled mightily at times in coverage last season). Other options include Roman Harrison (who has mostly played outside linebacker), Solon Page, and Morven Joseph.
Not only is there a lack of proven talent at the position, but there’s also absolutely no depth.
And that’s extremely concerning for the Vols.
That’s why I think there’s a position switch Tennessee should consider making.
Redshirt freshman Dee Beckwith has moved around quite a bit during his time on Rocky Top. He’s spent most of his time recently at running back, which I’ve always thought is an odd spot for the 6-foot-5 Alabama native.
Vols running backs coach Jerry Mack, however, spoke highly this week of Beckwith as a running back.
“Dee’s doing a really incredible job just continuing to learn the finer details of the position every single day,” said Mack this week. “We talk a lot about just playing with low pad level, because he is a taller, bigger back, so just getting his pad level down and just learning some of the intricacies of the position.”
Beckwith is a player who is smart enough to play anywhere on the field. And that’s evidenced by Mack’s comments this week.
“You talk about extremely intelligent – asking questions in the meetings and just from that quarterback background that he has, you can just tell that he’s got a sense of the entire game and situational football and how everything fits together,” explained Mack.
The Vols are in fairly good shape at running back, with Jabari Small, Tiyon Evans, and Tee Hodge. Len’neth Whitehead, another running back who could also play linebacker (but has dealt with injuries, which is why I think Beckwith would be a better option), is also on the depth chart at running back.
Tennessee can afford to move Beckwith to the defensive side of the ball (Rivals recruiting analyst Chad Simmons mentioned when Beckwith committed to UT that he could play linebacker or safety also). And considering the lack of depth at linebacker, it’s a switch that would make Beckwith more valuable.
Beckwith is too good of an athlete to be splitting time at running back. He needs to be on the field as often as possible. If the Vols aren’t going to use him as a tight end, they might as well utilize him on the defensive side of the ball.
Featured image via Tennessee Athletic Communications/USA Today