Vlad shows off some sweet moves
Eight days into Tennessee's preseason camp, you could assemble a pretty fair defensive unit.
Unfortunately, we're just talking about the guys standing on the sidelines with a variety of ailments.
By Wednesday night, for example, the defensive tackle ranks were cut in half: four healthy bodies, four held out.
Projected starter Dan Williams and junior Victor Thomas were no-go, along with Wes Brown and Andre Mathis.
Williams was not anywhere to be seen at practice, but defensive line coach Ed Orgeron downplayed his absence.
"Everybody's got nicks and bruises,'' Orgeron said. "It's just part of camp. The guys are going to be OK.''
Brown, who has two surgically repaired knees, did work Wednesday morning. The senior watched the evening session, encouraging younger players.
Potential starting linebackers Rico McCoy and LaMarcus Thompson remained sidelined, along with Herman Lathers.
Chris Walker, a projected starter at defensive end, was held out, as were defensive backs Art Evans, Stephaun Raines and Brent Vinson.
UT coach Lane Kiffin said the number of banged-up players is an unfortunate but necessary side effect of a new regime setting a tempo.
"Unfortunately we've had five or six concussions and some other injuries,'' he said, "but when you're establishing the personality of a team that first year, I think that's part of it.
"If we knew our team better, if we were in our second, third or fourth year, we wouldn't have to practice this hard at times because we'd know some guys.
"As I've said before, I don't know anything about these players. We don't know how they respond.''
Kiffin said it's important that the learning process continues apace. In other words: Damn the ice packs, full speed ahead.
"If we slow ourselves up to the guys that are injured,'' he said, "we're not maximizing our potential of the guys that are healthy.
"So we've got to continue to push our guys, continue to install, continue to practice at a high level.''
Of course, the positive spin is that one player's misfortune is another's opportunity.
The scarcity of healthy bodies at defensive tackle gives Rae Sykes, Chase Nelson and true freshman Arthur Jeffery a chance to get meaningful work alongside Montori Hughes.
"We're building depth,'' Orgeron said.
Building depth is an especially urgent project at linebacker. Freshmen Greg King, Jerod Askew, Robert Nelson and Nigel Mitchell-Thornton are getting more reps than they might have anticipated.
King, especially, has been working with Nick Reveiz and Savion Frazier on the No. 1 unit.
Askew has been coming on this week.
"Askew started slow,'' Kiffin said. "He got to us late this summer and I think you can see what a great offseason program that we had because the guys that got here later have taken a little bit of transition time compared to the guys that were here in the beginning like Bryce (Brown).
"Askew has had a really good week. Greg King continues to flash, so we're very excited about our young linebackers.''
The offense has been closer to full strength. However, receiver Gerald Jones (leg) did not practice Wednesday.
Waiver For Walls: The defensive tackle pool would love to add signee Marlon Walls, who has been prevented from reporting to campus by the NCAA Clearinghouse on initial eligibility.
Kiffin said UT has filed a waiver on Walls' behalf.
"Hopefully they'll figure it out as soon as possible and he'll get here,'' Kiffin said.