The Tennessee Vols appear to have a player on the defensive side of the ball that’s poised to have a breakout season in 2022.

Vols defensive line coach Rodney Garner spoke to reporters on Tuesday and he pointed out redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Dominic Bailey as a player who has taken some big steps forward this summer.

“I said this in our staff meeting the other day, and I said it in my position meeting this morning — if we had to vote on who was probably the most improved guy in that room, it would definitely be Dominic Bailey,” said Garner on Monday. “He’s gotten better, he really has. He’s flashed and he’s shown that he’s going to have an opportunity to help this team.”

“He put himself in a position that we think he’s going to have an opportunity to help this team,” added Garner. “Obviously, he’s done a really good job during the offseason. I think his body’s changed. I think his mentality’s changed. He’s a little bit more talented than I thought. Maybe that’s gaining the strength with the weight program and the maturity and all of that. It might be him just getting more comfortable in the system that we’re running too. He’s been able to show and flash a lot more.”

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Tennessee defensive lineman Dominic Bailey (59) runs on the field at the Orange & White spring game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, April 24, 2021.
Kns Vols Spring Game

Bailey, a former four-star recruit, has played sparingly during his first few years in Knoxville.

The Maryland native has played in only three career games, including two games last season. But it sounds like he’s finally ready to make an impact on the program in 2022.

And he’ll certainly have an opportunity. The Vols are thin along the defensive line. Bailey should be one of the top players in Tennessee’s defensive end rotation behind Tyler Baron and Byron Young.

If Bailey can step up and provide the Vols with much-needed production from the defensive end position as a second-string player, it could be the difference in Tennessee’s defense falling apart in the fourth quarter and making a key defensive stand.

Depth isn’t a sexy word for a player looking to break out. I get it. However, being a depth player doesn’t mean Bailey can’t have a breakout season — quite the opposite, actually. Bailey could solidify himself as a key player for the Vols moving forward with a great season behind Baron and Young.

That’s something that would be massive for Tennessee as they continue to build competitive depth on the defensive side of the ball.

Featured image via Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK