Curt Maggitt had a career season in 2015.
The redshirt junior led Tennessee with 11 sacks — ranking third in the SEC — and had 15 tackles for loss. Maggitt also played in all 13 games for the Vols after battling injuries throughout his tenure in Knoxville.
The former four-star prospect suffered a shoulder injury in high school that lingered through his freshman season. Still, the then-freshman appeared in 11 games, made eight starts at strongside linebacker and recorded 56 tackles.
As a sophomore, Maggitt took over as the Vols’ starting MIKE linebacker. However, he suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 9 that carried over through the following season, leading to a medical redshirt.
In 2015, Tennessee used Maggitt at both defensive end and outside linebacker. Alongside Derek Barnett, the redshirt junior helped the Vols rank third in the SEC in sacks (35.0) and fourth in tackles for loss (91.0). Maggitt brought a veteran presence to a defensive line that returned zero starters and was the only prior starter on the front seven other than A.J. Johnson.
The redshirt junior excelled at both positions and was allowed to see a dual role with the emergence of first-year starter Jalen Reeves-Maybin. Reeves-Maybin, Johnson, and several others provided solid play from the linebacker positions, allowing Maggitt to line up as a defensive end in several packages and focus on plays at and beyond the line of scrimmage.
The transition to a hybrid pass rusher was easy for Maggitt, who was recruited as a weakside defensive end, but who had the frame of a college linebacker. But with Johnson’s departure and the Vols thin on the depth chart, the rising senior may need to revert back to an every down linebacker. Aside from Maggitt and Reeves-Maybin, Tennessee’s linebacking depth chart is in question with many others lacking prior starting experience.
Fortunately, the Vols have young talent in the form of several former four-star recruits such as Darrin Kirkland and Dillon Bates, who received a medical redshirt after missing most of his true freshman season. Reeves-Maybin should provide a veteran presence to allow Maggitt to reassume his hybrid role and allow a cast of young players to see production in 2015.
Tennessee’s defensive line faces a similar situation. The Vols have a star in rising sophomore Derek Barnett and a veteran in Corey Vereen. Behind Vereen is a cast of blue chip prospects including four-stars Kyle Phillips and Andrew Butcher, who are both expected to see playing time.
Maggitt could reassume his hybrid role and help Tennessee give its young talent some experience through rotations. With the veteran pass rusher, both the young linebackers and defensive ends could see playing time depending on where he lines up elsewhere.
Maggitt should continue his success should he stay healthy. After earning second-team All-SEC honors and opting to forego the NFL Draft, the DE/LB hybrid could be poised for a career year during his final collegiate season.