Jalen Reeves-Maybin entered the season as Tennessee’s most inexperienced starting linebacker. Compared to teammates A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt, Reeves-Maybin’s playing time as a true freshman consisted mostly of special teams, leading the Vols unit with 11 tackles in 2013.

But Sunday’s opener proved that Reeves-Maybin is ready to play with the big boys.

The sophomore led Tennessee with 10 tackles and added an assisted tackle for loss in his team’s 38-7 win over Utah State. Reeves-Maybin made the seamless transition from special teams player to full-time outside linebacker in his debut at the position.

Reeves-Maybin made three tackles from the linebacker position in 2013, all coming in one game against Auburn. This season, Reeves-Maybin looks to play a vital role in Tennessee’s “Orange Swarm” defense. The Vols want to take the identity of a strong pass rushing unit and the athletic Reeves-Maybin fits the bill at outside linebacker.

The former four-star prospect played both sides of the football at Clarksville Northeast High School. As a senior, Reeves-Maybin gained over 2,000 yards rushing, including 1,000 yards in three postseason games. Defensively, Reeves-Maybin was named all-state by the Tennessee Sports Writers after recording 103 tackles, 10 forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, a sack and a touchdown.

At 6-foor-1, 230 pounds, Reeves-Maybin has the size and speed to be a star outside linebacker should he continues to show progress. Playing alongside the talented duo of Johnson and Maggitt will only further his progression. Reeves-Maybin and Johnson combined for 19 tackles on Sunday. With heavy focus on the veteran duo, Reeves-Maybin should see a somewhat surprising rise early while flying under most experts’ radar.

With all the natural athletic intangibles to excel at the outside linebacker position, Reeves-Maybin will continue to work his way out of the shadow cast by Tennessee’s veteran starting linebackers.