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Tennessee's defensive line gets some much needed help

Talking Points for 3/31/10:

  • Chuck Smith is doing what he can with a defensive line that is in desperate need of tackles. We have a couple of fine probable starters in Montori Hughes and Marlon Walls, but after that, it's a bit shallow. Players in the mix are Arthur Jeffery, Chase Nelson, Rae Sykes, and Steven Fowlkes. Making matters worse, incoming freshman John Brown's fate for the fall is still up in the air as he struggles to qualify academically. The position did get quite a boost yesterday, though, when Greg Clark -- a 6'3" 300-pound DT from Northside High School in Warner Robins, Georgia -- became the 26th member of UT's 2010 class. Tennessee, Auburn, Ole Miss, and Southern Miss had recruited Clark early, but backed off when he failed to qualify. Clark recently retook his ACT, though, and voila, goodbye Valdosta State and hello Tennessee. By the way, former Vols Anthony Sessions and Jason Respert are also from Northside, so the school's known for talent.
  • New defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox has some very large cleats to fill, following not only the legendary Monte Kiffin but also UT legend John Chavis. The media all seem to be impressed with his intelligence, though, for whatever that's worth. Dooley, too, is high on Wilcox and reminds us that Wilcox's Broncos kept an Oregon offense that scored about 40 points per game last season from getting a first down until the third quarter.
  • Yesterday was the first day the coaches removed themselves to the sideline and let the players go without barking in their earholes between every play.
  • As suspected, Jim Chaney will be calling the plays this year. You gotta love Chaney, who said about getting back into play-calling that "As long as the [players] are executing and playing good I'm a pretty good play-caller."
  • Lance Thompson is leveraging lessons learned from last season and cross-training all of his linebackers to play multiple positions in case of an injury plague like we had last year.
  • Clawfense alert. Defensive end Willie Bohannon says that things are getting progressively easier for him. Credit some of that to experience, but also credit progressively simplified schemes ($?):

    "It was a big adjustment that first year," he recalled. "It was kind of hard to learn the plays from Coach Caldwell and them ... their playbook."

    Bohannon was so confused during his lone season working under defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell that he wound up sitting out the season as a redshirt.

    Tennessee hired an entirely new staff following the '08 season, so Bohannon spent 2009 learning from Ed Orgeron. Things went much smoother last fall as he recorded 7 tackles, 7 assists, a sack, a hurry, a fumble forced and a fumble recovered. Things are going smoother still in 2010.

    "Last year was a lot easier," Bohannon recalled, nodding emphatically, "and this year is real easy." 

  • Video: Dooley and many (all?) of the assistant coaches from yesterday.