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Tennessee Football: Elijah Herring in portal a good sign for Vols LBs

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One of the hardest things to accept in this age of NIL and the transfer portal is that some players who do everything right have to be nudged out. Elijah Herring was the first commitment Josh Heupel ever had as head coach at Tennessee Football, and he was the hardest player on defense last year.

As a result, when he stepped into the starting mike linebacker role after the season-ending injury to Keenan Pili in the Vols’ opener last year against the Virginia Cavaliers, it was well-deserved. However, there was a problem: He was extremely limited when it came to lateral quickness.

That issue made it clear that Herring, despite starting most of the year and finishing with a team-leading 80 tackles, 49 of which were solo, to go with four tackles for a loss, half a sack and a pass breakup, wasn’t fit for that role against SEC competition. If Tennessee Football developed depth at linebacker, he’d be the odd man out.

Well, the Vols developed depth, and as a result, Herring entered the transfer portal the Monday after the Vols’ spring game. It’s very clear this decision was made because of the emergence of other players at the position. Herring announced his decision on Twitter.

While everybody should wish Herring the best, as he is a great guy and a smart player, the truth is this wouldn’t have happened if other linebackers didn’t emerge in the spring. Under new linebackers coach William Inge, who replaces Brian Jean-Mary, that’s a long-term good sign for Tennessee Football.

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Pili returning to health is obviously part of that. However, then there’s Arion Carter, who is expected to be a rising superstar at sam linebacker. Meanwhile, Jeremiah Telander emerged in the spring, and he stood out in the spring game, and coaches are very high on freshman Edwin Spillman.

Add in Jalen Smith and Kalib Perry, and at best Herring was the fourth best linebacker on the team. At worst he was the seventh. As a result, it made sense for him to enter the portal, but it also means the Vols should be significantly better at the position this year.

Taking all of that into account, the move is best for both parties. It’s sad when it has to happen, and nobody is wrong in this scenario, but Tennessee Football and Herring will be better off going their separate ways. Herring may be more of an edge rusher anyway, but the Vols are extremely deep there.

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