KNOXVILLE – Byron Young’s season of promises has been slow to start.
A 6-3, 235-pound linebacker and college transfer from Georgia Military College, Young signed with Tennessee last December before head coach Josh Heupel and defensive coordinator Tim Banks arrived in January.
He was a much-touted addition, but had to skip the first two games against Bowling Green and Pittsburgh due to an NCAA eligibility issue dating back to his preseason football days.
Young’s impact on a defense of the Flights that entered the 2021 season as one of the most exhausted and uncertain units in the country was felt immediately upon his first outing against Tennessee Tech on September 18.
Since that game, Young has totaled 33 tackles (eight for loss) and 4.5 sacks, including one against Georgia, No.1 last Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
“Byron Young is getting better every week,” Banks said. “He’s a great athlete, as we all know, and I think when the game starts to slow down for him I think you’ll see even more production from him.”
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Young played high school football in Carvers Bay in his native South Carolina before graduating and moving to Columbus, Georgia, where he worked for a Dollar General for over a year. It was there that he picked up a flyer for the Georgia Military College football team free practice in 2019.
He quickly made a name for himself that season, registering 31 tackles (11 loss) and seven sacks, then garnered interest from several FBS programs including Tennessee, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina. .
He is now one of the pillars of UT’s defense.
“I think I got a lot better with my speed and stuff like that,” Young said. “Getting out of the ball, playing games, just holding my blocks, giving the edge, things of that nature.”
Banks knew Young would contribute as a junior this season, but given his unconventional journey to play in the ranks of Power Five football and the fact that he missed a year of play in 2020 because Georgia Military College has canceled the season, the fact that he is one of the leaders of the Flights defense was something Banks had not seen coming.
“He’s not a guy who played football a lot,” Banks said. “Seeing the progress and seeing how he improves week after week was a pleasant surprise to be completely honest with you. We thought he had a chance to be good enough, but now we realize he’s only scratching the surface.
“I’m excited for him and I know he’s a hard worker and I think his best football has yet to be seen here.”
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