Texas transfer LB Juwan Mitchell still trying to impact Tennessee football.
Linebacker Juwan Mitchell, a transfer from Texas, was expected to be one of TennesseeThe best additions of 2021.
A year later, the Vols are still hoping that will come true.
Mitchell’s recovery from a season-ending shoulder injury and his development in the defensive scheme will determine if that happens.
“(Mitchell) was getting better before we decided to shut him down (due to injury),” linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary said. “But our expectations for him are high.”
Mitchell has worn a yellow jersey in spring practice, which means he can drill but can’t make contact. He won’t participate in 11-on-11 team sessions until preseason practices begin in August.
That adds to the suspense of whether Mitchell is an impactful player or a transfer that didn’t work out. The Vols won’t know until the season.
“Being healthy is the most important thing. He has worked very hard to put himself in a position to contribute this year,” defensive coordinator Tim Banks said. “I’m very excited (for) once we can get it fully up and running.”
The 6-foot-1, 235-pound Mitchell led Texas in tackles in 2020. He filled a position of necessity for the Vols when he traded to Tennessee last summer, but his impact was short-lived.
Mitchell started at middle linebacker in the season opener against Bowling Green, but did not record an inning. He had seven tackles and one pass breakup off the bench against Pitt. He and he made a tackle against Florida in his final appearance of the season.
Jean-Mary said Mitchell didn’t immediately mix with the roster, but that got a lot better during the offseason.
“The first thing was his attitude. She has really been embracing the team concept here,” said Jean-Mary. “It’s always a difficult thing when you take a child out of the portal and they go into a different program with different expectations and different rules. That was a struggle at first.
“But he has been great (and) attentive in meetings. (He) has helped his teammates and has been excellent in (drills) 7 against 7”.
Development and depth were deficiencies in the linebacking corps last spring. Starters Henry To’o To’o and Quavaris Crouch were transferred to Alabama and Michigan State, respectively. Martavius French left the team after being suspended. And injuries further reduced the group.
Tennessee’s linebackers never fully recovered last season, but they’re in better shape now with two key starters and backups returning. Jeremy Banks led the team with 128 tackles and 11½ tackles for loss. Aaron Beasley was second with 84 tackles.
Solon Page, who had 39 tackles and an interception for a touchdown, returns as a super senior. Kwauze Garland is back after playing mostly on special teams, but Jean-Mary said he wants him in the rotation at linebacker.
Aaron Willis, a four-star prospect in the 2021 class, is getting more comfortable in the scheme. Nebraska transfer Jackson Hannah, a former Montgomery Bell Academy standout, and freshman Elijah Herring, a product of Riverdale, will debut with the Vols in the spring.