Tennessee’s defensive line hasn’t looked like it currently does in a long time. The Vols have versatility in its defensive front that just doesn’t accidentally happen. No, this must have been planned.
Let’s start with a bona fide contributor. Omari Thomas, at 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds, fits the typical defensive tackle role in terms of his size. However, his fellow interior defensive linemen are a bit smaller in stature – and experience.
Omarr Norman-Lott, who is 6-3 and 300 pounds has similar size to Thomas, but will have to get up to speed quickly to be ready to play in the SEC. Norman-Lott transferred from Arizona State following last season. It remains to be seen who all will join Norman-Lott and Thomas on the inside. However, the outside has all kinds of potential.
Tyler Baron, who is 6-5 and 260 pounds, ended his junior season on the right note. He set a career-high with four tackles for a loss and a sack against Missouri. The former Knoxville (Tenn.) Catholic High School standout is expected to be the player most likely to step in for Byron Young, who is thought to be a rising NFL prospect after his performance last season and leading up to April’s draft. However, it seems that Baron’s game will be more predicated on power than Young, who relied on speed.
Physically, Joshua Josephs may be the most similar to Young. With Josephs’ long arms and explosion, he may be a top-flight edge rusher soon. He has a ton of potential. Josephs, who is 6-3 and 240 pounds, was limited as a freshman in 2022, but showed enough flash to get coaches and fans excited.
Spring camp will also be a very important practice session for James Pearce Jr., who was very limited during his freshman season in 2022. The 6-5, 240-pound athlete was mostly used on special teams last year, but figures to ascend as a pass rusher before the 2023 season. Just how much better can Pearce get? That remains to be seen.
Tennessee’s defensive line doesn’t have many players that just simply fit into a mold. That’s a good thing. The Vols have the fundamental basics among their defensive linemen, but their differing body types will make them tough to deal with this fall.
Here are links to the following position previews: