It has been no secret that Tennessee football has needed an upgrade at linebacker since coach Josh Heupel took over the Vols following the 2020 season. The Vols seem to be on the right path.
That path begins with a more experienced Aaron Beasley, who was a surprising standout in general for Tennessee, but especially with his penchant for turning in big plays behind the line of scrimmage. Sure, the rising senior led the Vols in tackles last season, as one might expect. However, he also led Tennessee in tackles for a loss. Looking for an unsung player who could make a huge splash this season? Beasley could be that player.
In order to be that kind of player, Beasley will need some more freedom to allow him to take advantage of his physical ability and venture off from his middle linebacker role at times. Enter Keenan Pili, who transferred from BYU.
“Been really smooth actually,” Pili said of moving from Utah to Tennessee. “I talked to my wife about it all the time. It’s been an easy transition for us…the team, the culture, it’s really good and strong and (with) me coming in, you never know how it is. You know your transferring schools. You don’t know how it’s going to be, but Tennessee’s been really loving. The players have been great to me. It’s been great to get to know them.”
Pili has only been on campus for a few months. However, some are already referring to the former BYU captain as a leader.
“I didn’t try to,” Pili asked of becoming a leader. “I try not to say much…I didn’t want to be too vocal or too out there. You know how that is with a transfer coming in and wanting to do too much…However it needs to flow and if the room needed more, leaders can definitely step in and help.”
Pili didn’t get into specifics about why he decided to transfer to Tennessee football. However, he knows the Vols well. He saw Neyland Stadium when the Cougars played the Vols in 2019. His BYU team also played Central Florida in the Boca Raton Bowl, beating UCF 49-23 when Heupel was the head coach. The trip to Knoxville stands out.
“The one thing I remember from the game was just a crazy atmosphere,” Pili said. “Now, even to this day, I remember that game, how loud it was. I think they caused us to have two false starts right at the beginning of the game just because of the noise in the stadium.”
Now, Pili might benefit from those Neyland Stadium-induced false starts.