Most of the news from Tennessee Vols fall camp over the last week has been….boring.

Though that’s a good thing.

It’s been business as usual for the Vols. No major developments. No crazy injuries, fights, or suspensions. Quiet is good. And it’s been mostly quiet for Tennessee so far.

There’s one concern, however, that’s emerged from camp. And it’s something that Vols defensive line coach Rodney Garner spoke about this week.

Garner expressed concern on Monday about whether or not Tennessee sufficiently replaced defensive lineman Matthew Butler this offseason.

Butler, who was selected in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Las Vegas Raiders, was a key team leader for the Vols last season.

Vols
Tennessee defensive lineman Matthew Butler (94) defends at the 2021 Music City Bowl NCAA college football game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021.
Kns Tennessee Purdue

“I’m going to be honest with you — that’s been a big void,” said Garner in response to a question about Butler. “Matt, I guess we probably took it for granted how valuable he was. I don’t know that we’ve filled that role yet. I think we just have to keep pushing the guys, to keep straining them and see who’s going to rise to the top.”

“For some of them, it’s easy to lead when things are easy. When we’re faced with that adversity, who’s going to be that guy who’s still going to stand in there and be the guy to say, ‘You can count on me. Get behind me. I’m going to show you the way.’ We really don’t have that yet.”

“I think B.Y. (Byron Young) is trying, but B.Y. is a different type of leader than that,” noted Garner. “B.Y. is much quieter. He just really takes care of B.Y. We need him to come on and be a more aggressive guy and take the bull by the horns, per se. Omari (Thomas), Big O needs to get better so he can become a better leader too. That comes with also doing it on the field and not just being a verbal guy. You have to also do it by your actions too.”

It’s certainly not encouraging to hear Garner say that Tennessee hasn’t been able to replace one of their biggest team leaders from last season.

However, it’s possible that Garner made this strong statement publicly as a way to motivate Young and Thomas to take on more of a leadership role. It’s hard to force that role on a player. And Garner’s been around long enough to know which players can handle it and which players can’t. But he clearly believes Young and Thomas are two players that can be leaders for Tennessee’s defensive line.

This will be something worth keeping an eye on. We’ve seen over the last several years how important on-field leadership can be for the Vols. It’s imperative that each position unit has a defined leader. Hopefully for the Vols, they find their defensive line leaders soon.

Featured image via Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK