Josh Heupel probably won’t openly admit it, but he’s surely pleased that he’ll be coaching the players he personally recruited to Tennessee Football, especially at linebacker.
There are certainly no complaints about senior Aaron Beasley, who blossomed last season as one of the better playmakers in the SEC. However, the Vols never got what they hoped for from former Vol Jeremy Banks, who was underwhelming and, also, a part of a widely reported, off-field incident that undermined Tennessee before the South Carolina game. Banks, like Beasley, was a signee under former UT coach Jeremy Pruitt. Unlike Beasley, he didn’t respond as well as hoped to the new coaching regime under Heupel.
Tennessee signed three linebackers to the 2023 class: Arion Carter, Jalen Smith and Jeremiah Telander. Carter has already received rave reviews while Smith and Telander continue to find their footing in college. While their future productivity is unknown, at least Tennessee’s coaches will be able to groom them in the fashion that they see fit. The man most in charge of that is linebacker coach Brian Jean-Mary.
“Coach BJ, he’s like my second father, being away from home,” Smith said after the Vols’ second practice of preseason camp on Thursday. “I really love him. He’s a great guy. That’s one of the reasons that I came here. He stays on me, but it’s really just a loving relationship. He helps keep me on the right page.”
Said Telander, “I believe the coaching staff, with the past two seasons they’ve had, the culture here is one of the best in college football. I think we all saw that, and that’s why we came here. The culture, the coaching staff, just the whole place itself.”
The Vols could benefit greatly from Smith and Telander if they continue to have rave reviews about Tennessee Football from their time in Knoxville. Both are from Georgia, which is an area that the Vols will depend on in recruiting. Both could help build stronger ties in recruiting to the Peach State.
Smith and Telander won’t be expected to have a huge impact anytime soon. Tennessee’s two starting linebackers will almost certainly be Beasley and BYU senior transfer Keenan Pili. After that, it’s all underclassmen.
Sophomore Elijah Herring and Kalib Perry have more experience than Smith and Telander, but there’s no reason to think that the Tennessee Football incoming linebackers can’t snag some snaps from their older teammates. If anything, last season’s pre-Columbia issue with Banks proved that older isn’t necessarily better.