Thursday’s spring practice brought about some interesting stories.
Many fans and media members have been calling for a Circle of Life battle between two of Tennessee’s most physical beings: former 5-star defensive end Jonathan Kongbo and the nation’s No. 1 offensive lineman Trey Smith. Well, everyone got their wish on Thursday as the two physical freaks went to battle.
Trey Smith handling Kongbo. pic.twitter.com/4ayAD1HY3t
— VolBlood (@VolBlood) April 7, 2017
As you can see, the freshman Smith easily handled Kongbo who is regarded as UT’s best defensive lineman. So, what does this mean? It’s very impressive to see Smith being able to physically outmatch Kongbo. However, it is also concerning to see UT’s supposed best defensive lineman getting beat so easily, especially when he is expected to fill Derek Barnett’s shoes this season.
From our very own Jon Reed, this raises the question.
I hate seeing this because IDK if I'm supposed to be excited for Trey Smith or worried for our D-Line https://t.co/PEjVHFPkJD
— JR (@Jon__Reed) April 7, 2017
Here’s the positive: Tennessee has struggled the last few years on the offensive line. They’ve given up numerous sacks over the years and Josh Dobbs had to make a lot of plays on the run due to the line’s inability to consistently block well enough. Tennessee doesn’t know who the starting quarterback will be this year. No matter who it is, they will be unproven and they will need as much help as they can get from the linemen. Trey Smith looks to project as an impact player this year and if he can use this type of strength upfront, then this now-veteran offensive line will receive a huge boost to help out the new QB.
Here’s the negative: The Vols were awful last year in defense. They gave up over 1,340 yards just to Missouri and Vanderbilt combined, and that was with studs like Derek Barnett and Corey Vereen on the line. With those two guys gone, including all kinds of injuries and attrition, the defensive line is heavily relying on Jonathan Kongbo to step up. It’s definitely not a good sign that Kongbo got handled by a freshman, but Trey Smith isn’t your ordinary freshman.
Don’t hit the panic button just yet. This was simply a battle of strength, not a drill that shows who’s better regarding position. My takeaway from this is yes, it’s not necessarily positive to see Kongbo get overpowered like that, but I think it’s more positive about Smith. I think the offensive line’s priority to protect a new and unproven quarterback in Dormady or Guarantano is higher than the defensive line problems. It’s early on and Smith hasn’t played a down of D1 football, but he’s showing unbelievable strength and is a guy that can come in right away and improve the strength of the line, especially at the latest swinging door position which has been left tackle. When going up against potential first-round defensive linemen from the likes of Alabama and Florida, it’s imperative to have players that can equally match up or even outmatch those defenders in sheer power.
The fanbase reaction seems to be split right now on what it means. Tell us what you think.