Five-star Kongbo signed with Tennessee to win a national title in 2016
Junior college defensive end Jonathan Kongbo is apparently not one to shy away from the highest of expectations. Judging by the hopes and dreams of Tennessee fans this offseason, Kongbo's incredibly high aspirations will be a welcome sign on Rocky Top.
Shortly after sending in his letter of intent to play for Tennessee and head coach Butch Jones, Kongbo was filmed explaining his decision to be a Volunteer. The five-star JUCO prospect did not fail to set the bar incredible high for his first season with the team:
"I ended up choosing to go to Tennessee because I believe we are going to win a national championship next year," Kongbo said. "I believe in what Coach Jones is doing and I'm just ready to get to work and bring Tennessee up, bring Rocky Top back to the top."
If Tennessee does indeed plan to live up to those lofty standards, they'll need to improve a pass rush that only got to the quarterback 30 times last season -- good for fifth-best in the SEC and 42nd ranked nationally. Kongbo registered 11 sacks in his final five JUCO games, including five-sack performance in one game.
Adding Kongbo to a defensive line that already has a sack master in junior defensive end Derek Barnett, 10 sacks in 2015 and 19 in his career, should make opposing quarterbacks lose some sleep, but the defensive ends can't be asked to do everything to increase overall sack production. Fortunately for them, Butch Jones brought in someone to help increase the team's sack numbers.
Despite landing the No. 1 junior college prospect in the nation, the biggest addition to the Tennessee defense this offseason is still new coordinator Bob Shoop. The former Penn State and Vanderbilt coordinator runs an attacking style of defense that emphasizes getting pressure on the quarterback and disrupting the offensive backfield. Shoop's Penn State defense led the Big Ten and ranked third in the nation last season with 46 sacks. The only teams with more sacks, Alabama (52) and Clemson (48), played two games more than Shoop's unit.
The best coaching in the world means little if the players are not in place to effectively execute the gameplan. Fortunately for Shoop that shouldn't be an issue this season. With the return of contributing seniors Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Cam Sutton, Danny O'Brien, Corey Vereen, LaTroy Lewis and Malik Foreman and with the further development and increased playing time for talented younger players such as Rashaan Gaulden, Dillon Bates, Kyle Phillips, Kahlil McKenzie, Shy Tuttle, Darrin Kirkland Jr., Evan and Elliott Berry, Micah Abernathy, Cortez McDowell and Darrell Taylor among others to run Shoop's addition of the Orange Swarm.
A smart coach knows he's only as good as the players he has at his disposal:
Of course adding a player that can do things like this helps too:
If Kongbo can come in and compete for immediate playing time before maturing into a key member of the defense by seasons end, his lofty expectations for 2016 may in fact turn into the new reality on Rocky Top led by Jones and Shoop.