KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — With Keenan Pili out with an injury, the Tennessee defense had to figure out how to fill his shoes.

Aaron Beasley did just that with nine tackles, and a career high five tackles for loss against Austin Peay. But right behind Beasley was sophomore Elijah Herring, who has taken his game to a new level in 2022.

“We hit it with the next-man-up mentality,” said Herring. “We just have to be prepared for anything that could happen, because it’s a long season, and anything could happen, so everyone needs to be prepared and ready to be the next man up.” 

“He communicated at a high level,” said Head Coach Josh Heupel on Herring’s week two performance. “He’s a young guy that his best football is going to continue to come down the pipe, man. Great confidence in him.”

The Vol defense as a whole has stepped it up under Tim Banks this season.

“We want to be more aggressive,” said Herring. “We want to be able to play in that backfield. Be able to fly around to the ball. Play with our hair like it’s on fire. Go back to the old Tennessee days when they were just swarming to the ball like those guys.”

Even though Herring is in year two on Rocky Top, he said he had his ‘Welcome to college football’ moment this weekend after taking two big hits. However, after that, he said he settled in.