Linebackers at UT: a cast in a cast

Injuries leave Thompson as only known quantity

There's really only one way to identify the first-team linebackers at this point.

Just look for LaMarcus Thompson.

Tennessee might be starting to get healthier in the middle of its defense, and the senior outside linebacker has had a few more familiar faces around him lately during non-contact drills.

But in any live situations Thompson and the Vols might face in their sixth practice of the spring this afternoon, the rest of the cast is a little bit tougher to predict with the top of the depth chart still rehabbing from surgeries or working out on the side.

"You know, it's been interesting," Thompson said. "Guys are back there and starting to get healthy, and Nick (Reveiz) and Herman (Lathers) are getting some small reps, but nothing real live. It gets other guys better and gets them in the rotation more, gets them to learn more, so when we go into the season and injuries do happen - that's unfortunate but it will happen - it will be easier to adjust than it was last year.

"Last year was definitely kind of hard."

The Vols are still feeling the effects from it at linebacker, a position that kept the training staff in business almost by itself with a rash of injuries that decimated the defense.

Reveiz was lost in September to knee surgery, and though he's aggressively pushing to get back on the field more, UT is still monitoring the middle linebacker and trying to limit his reps. The same is true for Savion Frazier, who filled in for Reveiz then went down in nearly identical fashion.

And though Lathers has started to work his way back into the rotation, the Vols picked up more to worry about when Greg King, already hampered by elbow surgery, left practice on crutches last week after apparently re-aggravating a left knee injury.

That basically leaves Thompson as the only known quantity, and if nothing else gives new UT coach Derek Dooley a chance to experiment and try to create some depth.

"I hope so, that's how you've got to treat it," Dooley said. "We can't control the fact that (so many linebackers) are out. I'd rather everybody be healthy and we develop the guys who were real productive last year, but we can't do that. (This is) the next best thing.

"I always feel like you've got to prepare like, 'If we were playing today, what would we do?' You'd better be ready for it, and it is a good opportunity for those guys to learn."

The younger guys at least still have one regular with them in full-contact situations, and Thompson has tried to provide as much support for them as possible.

He's been quick to point out how impressed he's been with the transition Austin Johnson has made back to linebacker after playing fullback a year ago. Thompson has singled out junior Daryl Vereen for stepping up over the last couple practices as well, and freshman Jerod Askew has emerged as another candidate to possibly contribute in the fall also.

It figures to get more difficult for them to do it when the more recognizable names return, but for now they're fitting in just fine with Thompson.

"I thing it has been good so far," Thompson said. "Of course there's work to do because it's a new defense, but it's coming along and we're all coming along fine. We're getting our fits and adjustments, and all we've got to do is keep working and watch film and we'll be all right.

"Of course being a person that has been in the battle and played before, you've got to talk to the guys that really haven't been there and teach them how to cope with whatever's going on and manage the game. I just give them a word of advice, that's all it is."

At least for a while longer, the first-team around him can still use the help.

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Comments » 15

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

Uhh hmmmm......

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

Glad to hear this. Competition breeds success.

charles57#1378642 writes:

How long is Coach Dooley going to be "new?"

HollySpringsVOL writes:

in response to charles57#1378642:

How long is Coach Dooley going to be "new?"

Until he wins a bowl game.

nocleats writes:

An interview with an asst.coach! I would love to hear from Coach Wilcox, but I am sure he has too much on his plate right now! Keep workin Vols!!

jobrando#216494 writes:

in response to charles57#1378642:

How long is Coach Dooley going to be "new?"

At least 3 years then he will be renewed or moving on...

gnm53108 writes:

in response to charles57#1378642:

How long is Coach Dooley going to be "new?"

The 3rd...err..now 4th saturday in october.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

I get the feeling the LB's will continue to be injury prone well into Sept. Johnson certainly has a future..Askew continues to be a project instead of the dominate LB we all hoped for..A lot of the incoming freshman were undersized DE in high school and definitely won't contribute because they aren't SEC fast.If Frazier and Reveiz don't stay healthy it will turn out badly..

paradisetaxi writes:

GO VOLS !!!

Tennacious writes:

2010 will be a tough year. The schedule is challenging as usual and the experience / talent is down from previous years. Realistically, a repeat of last season's 7-5 record, a bowl game, and followed by another top ten recruiting class, should be considered a successful year for the staff and program.

Ayres_Hall writes:

in response to Tennacious:

2010 will be a tough year. The schedule is challenging as usual and the experience / talent is down from previous years. Realistically, a repeat of last season's 7-5 record, a bowl game, and followed by another top ten recruiting class, should be considered a successful year for the staff and program.

This would be the BEST we could hope for... my fellow fans and supporters. Seeds.

givehim6 writes:

LB walk-on should be held. We have some great player/teachers what we do not have are health bodies. Walk-ons would give UT the depth we need.

HtownVol writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

I get the feeling the LB's will continue to be injury prone well into Sept. Johnson certainly has a future..Askew continues to be a project instead of the dominate LB we all hoped for..A lot of the incoming freshman were undersized DE in high school and definitely won't contribute because they aren't SEC fast.If Frazier and Reveiz don't stay healthy it will turn out badly..

Exactly is Askew a project? What did you see in his play last year to say that?

Or maybe you are really CDD and you see him every day???

And How many of the FR have you seen run ( in person) to know that they are not "SEC fast"?

Because of the times that recruiting services put down on their 40 times???

I am not trying to hate, I just want to know how you know these things.

Or are all of these "feelings" as you said. (Maybe what you are saying)

RJ007 writes:

Monte's D seem like it was a good scheme, but why are all the LB's hurt...is that part of the Tampa 2 scheme did are own team do this...played Fball started at 10 yrs never remeber so many LB's getting hurt unless they were playing both sides of the ball.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to HtownVol:

Exactly is Askew a project? What did you see in his play last year to say that?

Or maybe you are really CDD and you see him every day???

And How many of the FR have you seen run ( in person) to know that they are not "SEC fast"?

Because of the times that recruiting services put down on their 40 times???

I am not trying to hate, I just want to know how you know these things.

Or are all of these "feelings" as you said. (Maybe what you are saying)

There is plenty of high school game film on the undersized DE we are converting to LB's. Iam no Mel Kiper but what I see are kids who have a nose for the ball;are good tacklers but not necessarily guys that are going to be chasing down the likes of Mark Ingram on the back side of the play..As far as Askew goes you are right only the coaches really know how good he is..But considering we were down to 3rd string LB's last season; I can only assume like everyone else if he had the required skills as a freshman they would have put him on the field!!!Coaches sure didn't hesitate throwing other freshman LB's onto the field

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