Tyler Baron loves what Tennessee's new staff is putting together for him

Tennessee Athletics photo / Tennessee's Tyler Baron played strongside linebacker last season as a freshman but has split time this spring between outside linebacker and defensive end.

There are a multitude of new aspects to Tennessee's football program this spring, with sophomore Tyler Baron's role among them.

Consider him shared property.

The 6-foot-5, 257-pounder out of Knoxville Catholic played strongside linebacker last season but has split time this spring between Mike Ekeler's outside linebackers room and Rodney Garner's defensive line room. The Volunteers have seven practices in the books, which includes Thursday afternoon's scrimmage, and that's more than enough proof for Baron to know the 2021 season could be fun and very busy.

"There is going to be a lot of split time, playing with my hand down and playing up," Baron said. "I'll be in a lot of different coverage situations, and I will be rushing the passer. I really love what these guys are putting together for me this season."

Baron was a coveted four-star signee who wasted no time in making a college impact. In Tennessee's 31-27 opening win at South Carolina last September, he collected two lost-yardage stops, and when the Vols traveled to Georgia two weeks later, he tallied five tackles.

A sack of Florida quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask helped cap a freshman season that contained 21 tackles and three tackles for loss, and he has apparently picked up where he left off in the eyes of the new coaches.

"He's obviously a skilled athlete, and I think it's too early to say exactly how we're going to utilize him - whether he's a hybrid or strictly a defensive lineman," defensive coordinator Tim Banks said. "Quite frankly, I think that's a good problem to have. He has a good skill set, and we're still evaluating.

"Hopefully, by the end of spring or heading into fall, we'll have a better idea of exactly how we're going to utilize him."

Baron hasn't added any weight to his frame, and he said his "pursuit and effort level as far as chasing the ball" are the biggest areas in which he has improved since Tennessee's disappointing 3-7 season ended last December with a 34-13 loss to Texas A&M. He is excited to have more of a leadership role this year, and he is overflowing with optimism in terms of what both he and the entire defense can accomplish later this year.

"I love just being able to do a bunch of different things," Baron said. "That shows versatility, and I think that's something I excel in - being able to be in a lot of different realms and a lot of different things in terms of my position. I think it's something I will excel in, and I think it's something the coaches saw in me. I appreciate this opportunity.

"I think the biggest thing with this year from last year is just how connected we are as a defense. I feel like our chemistry has gone up and that we're more in sync right now. We rotate very well, and it's just all been very positive."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.