A mostly forgotten Tennessee Vols player could play a big role in UT’s defense in 2022.

Linebacker Juwan Mitchell transferred to Tennessee from Texas after the 2020 season. The former three-star recruit led the Longhorns in tackles in 2020, which led to high expectations when he arrived in Knoxville.

Unfortunately for Mitchell, he battled injuries in 2021 and wasn’t able to make much of an impact for the Vols. The New Jersey native totaled just eight tackles last season.

At one point, there were rumblings that Mitchell could look to transfer again. But instead, he stuck around and now he’s primed to be a key player for Tennessee.

Vols linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary met with reporters on Wednesday and he had plenty to say about Mitchell and the expectations for the linebacker this season.

Tennessee Vols
Tennessee linebacker Juwan Mitchell (10) walks off the field during a game against Pittsburgh at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.
Kns Tennessee Pittsburgh Football

“Juwan has been a model of consistency these first three days,” said Jean-Mary. “It’s really the first time probably in almost a year and a half to two years that he’s felt healthy. He’s gotten all of the surgeries behind him and he’s probably as healthy as he’s been in a long time. You’re starting to see the best parts of him. He’s been really good these first three days.”

Mitchell obviously has talent, but he’s not just going to be handed a key role. He’s going to have to continue to earn it during training camp.

“If he’s able to come in and be able to contribute at a high level, we’ll feel like that just adds to our numbers,” explained Jean-Mary. “With the way we play and score, we have to have several linebackers ready to play. Especially with the wear and tear that you get in this conference, the more quality linebackers that you have, the better chance you have of being better on defense.”

Tennessee’s biggest weakness in 2022 is the same as it was in 2021.

A lack of depth.

The Vols are better off than they were a year ago, but they still have a long way to go before they have the type of depth needed to win an SEC championship.

If Mitchell can perform at a high level, it will be a massive positive for Tennessee’s defense — especially considering the team’s lack of depth at linebacker.

Featured image via Saul Young/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK