The Tennessee Vols could be in a tough spot in 2021 at the linebacker position.
Henry To’o To’o and Quavaris Crouch, two of the Vols’ starting linebackers in 2020, are both in the transfer portal. And it seems very unlikely that either will return to Knoxville in 2021.
To’o To’o is currently enrolled in online classes while he’s back home in California. Crouch was on campus recently, but comments from UT assistants on Monday suggest that he’s no longer with the team.
“We don’t have a timeline on those guys,” said Vols defensive coordinator Tim Banks on Monday. “They’re not here, obviously, at this point, so we’re super excited about the guys that are here in this program that are working…..we’re just concerned with the guys that are here.”
“I’ve had conversations with them, but with them being in the portal, my focus has been the guys that are here,” added Tennessee linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary.
If To’o To’o and Crouch aren’t back at UT in 2021, it will leave Jeremy Banks as one of the more experienced linebackers on the roster.
At that point, it will be extremely important that Tennessee adds another linebacker to the roster.
Fortunately for the Vols, there’s a perfect option in the transfer portal.
Penn State linebacker Lance Dixon, a former four-star recruit, entered the portal earlier this year. Dixon has an existing relationship with Banks (the two were together at Penn State), and he’s already hearing from Tennessee.
Before all the coaching changes went down in January and February, it appeared that Dixon was destined for Michigan. But now that Banks is at Tennessee, it’s certainly possible that Dixon could end up on Rocky Top.
The presence of Jean-Mary, the former linebackers coach at Michigan, could also help the Vols’ case here.
Dixon, who is ranked in 247Sports’ transfer portal rankings as the No. 27 player in the portal, would instantly provide Tennessee’s defense with much-needed experience and talent.
The Michigan native was likey going to be behind outside linebacker Jesse Luketa on Penn State’s depth chart in 2021. Dixon is obviously hitting the portal to look for a starting opportunity, which he’d almost certainly get at UT.
Dixon flashed his talent last season when he started against Ohio State and compiled five total tackles and forced a fumble.
I’d look for Dixon to make a decision around the end of spring. Michigan is going to continue to be a huge factor for Dixon, so this won’t be a slam dunk for the Vols.
Featured image via Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports/Penn State Athletics