It's read, run, hit for Lathers

Linebacker helping improve pass rush

Herman Lathers can run, hit and read a running back.

Tennessee can add on to the set of skills later because for now that's all the sophomore linebacker really needs to wreak havoc on an offense.

The simple approach has worked just fine for Lathers during the past couple weeks, as he's taken his cues in man coverage from the tailbacks he's assigned. If that guy stays in the pocket this week at Memphis (TV: CBS College Sports, 8 p.m.), Lathers will be there in a hurry as well - and he's been doing damage when he arrives.

"Coming out of high school I was a good blitzer," Lathers said after practice Tuesday. "It's kind of like an automatic thing for me, especially when we're in man-free (coverage). If you have the running back and he blocks, you just add on.

"So coming here out of high school and playing a lot of man coverage, when guys stay in to block that gives me a lot of opportunities to blitz and do what I do best - run through running backs."

Lathers has done plenty of it the past couple weeks on the way to the quarterback, notching sacks in each of the last two games to help the Vols (2-6, 0-5 SEC) improve a rush that has struggled to get to the passer all season.

Along with credit for half of another takedown at LSU to open the month, Lathers picked up all of his team-high 2.5 sacks in October as UT turned him loose more often with a simple assignment that perfectly suits his raw ability.

"He's got good speed, he's got good twitch, he's got good burst and he's a good explosive hitter," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "He's one of those, I call them Runners and Hitters. When he runs and hits in a straight line, he's effective. So when you pressure and you've got a beeline to the quarterback, he can put a good pop on you, so it's been effective.

"Now, where Runners and Hitters get challenged early in their careers is learning how to change direction, match the patterns and do all that stuff. That's what has been giving him problems."

The other problems have been an ankle injury that kept him out of the UAB game and back spasms that forced him to the sideline late last week against South Carolina, though Lathers downplayed both issues after working out in a red, non-contact jersey for the second time this week.

The Vols still expect him to be available against the Tigers (1-7, 0-5 Conference USA), and given his four-game run with 29 tackles and increasing appearances in the opposing backfield, they're also anticipating Lathers being effective against a team that's allowed 23 sacks this season.

"Herman's an aggressive guy," middle linebacker Nick Reveiz said. "He's really a guy with so much power and so much speed that if he's got a back man-to-man, he's going to trigger on a blitz as soon as he sees it. That's what he did in the Alabama game, we dialed up another blitz for South Carolina where he hugged up and got to the quarterback, and we need Herman back there making plays.

"I think we've seen that with (defensive coordinator Justin) Wilcox dialing up plays where (Lathers) can definitely make some."

The formula to do it in the backfield isn't all that complicated - read, run and hit. Lately it's been getting the desired results for the Vols.

Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward.

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Comments » 21

NorthwestVol writes:

Give Coach credit, he calls it like he sees it. Way I read it is Lathers is a straight line kinda guy. Unfortunately those darn running backs sometimes make a cut.

iowavol writes:

Now take that same philosophy and teach it to the QB - read, load and throw.

PUL4VOLS writes:

It would be great to see Lathers and others step up with big hits on defense in the next four games. They could be the difference in going 4-0 or 2-2. GO VOLA!

Bearwuzacheater writes:

Can anyone tell me what channel number CBS College Sports is on the Directv system?

OrangeCrush writes:

Hard to believe that both teams combined wins and losses are 3 wins and 13 losses.

The numbers speak for themselves!

DSmith1669 writes:

in response to Bearwuzacheater:

Can anyone tell me what channel number CBS College Sports is on the Directv system?

613 out here on the west coast ---

pomp_and_circumstance writes:

in response to NorthwestVol:

Give Coach credit, he calls it like he sees it. Way I read it is Lathers is a straight line kinda guy. Unfortunately those darn running backs sometimes make a cut.

Just about always they do. Which raises the question, is tackling a lost art? It seems that offensive football has dazzling stars everywhere that put up gaudy numbers and scores every Sat. Watching Cam Newton, he makes it look so damn easy. Whereas there might not be 20 defensive players in all college ball that are skilled in open field tackling. True enough, the runner knows where he is going while the tackler does not, but does that account for all those shifty speedsters and running backs waltzing past arm tackles like they are on a dance floor? I think back to high school 60 years ago when the coach drilled "tackle the belt buckle, it stays pretty much the same no matter what the feet do." I think that more and more each time I see a tackler close his eyes and launch his shoulders at the lower legs of a runner and miss by two yards.

FearTheVols1252 writes:

in response to pomp_and_circumstance:

Just about always they do. Which raises the question, is tackling a lost art? It seems that offensive football has dazzling stars everywhere that put up gaudy numbers and scores every Sat. Watching Cam Newton, he makes it look so damn easy. Whereas there might not be 20 defensive players in all college ball that are skilled in open field tackling. True enough, the runner knows where he is going while the tackler does not, but does that account for all those shifty speedsters and running backs waltzing past arm tackles like they are on a dance floor? I think back to high school 60 years ago when the coach drilled "tackle the belt buckle, it stays pretty much the same no matter what the feet do." I think that more and more each time I see a tackler close his eyes and launch his shoulders at the lower legs of a runner and miss by two yards.

I think tackling is a lost art. Unfortunately these days kids want to make highlight reels instead of focusing on fundamentals.

RoadTrip writes:

Lathers was the key to bottling up Lattimore. When he went down with his back, Lattimore killed us. Every time Lattimore cut back when Lathers was in, Lathers nailed him near the line of scrimmage. SC still would win the game as they would have kicked their passing game in more - but Lathers is important for more than just blitzing.

BrassMonkey writes:

Dooley is a joke. LA tech quality coach = LA tech quality record. Who will UT hire after the 2011 season? I guarantee he will be gone. If not I will tatoo a picture of me making out with him on my forehead.

vols378 writes:

in response to BrassMonkey:

Dooley is a joke. LA tech quality coach = LA tech quality record. Who will UT hire after the 2011 season? I guarantee he will be gone. If not I will tatoo a picture of me making out with him on my forehead.

Better get your ink ready as he will be here for as long as he wants. You need to give him at least 3 years to get his players on board than you can bad mouth him but if you knew what you were talking about you would know that we are down on numbers and quality players. Brass Monkey will be cute on your mug.

gc_scvol writes:

in response to BrassMonkey:

Dooley is a joke. LA tech quality coach = LA tech quality record. Who will UT hire after the 2011 season? I guarantee he will be gone. If not I will tatoo a picture of me making out with him on my forehead.

Can't afford a ticket, can you???

wigmeister writes:

Love this guy!

getasetofvols writes:

in response to BrassMonkey:

Dooley is a joke. LA tech quality coach = LA tech quality record. Who will UT hire after the 2011 season? I guarantee he will be gone. If not I will tatoo a picture of me making out with him on my forehead.

What an insightful post. I would love to hear your thoughts on other topics like a better space shuttle, jump staring the housing industry and Google Analytics. However, I do not believe you will be able to "tatoo" (not tattoo) an image that large on the smaller scale forehead of such a small head. But thank you for having a crush on our coach.

navarrebeachvol writes:

in response to BrassMonkey:

Dooley is a joke. LA tech quality coach = LA tech quality record. Who will UT hire after the 2011 season? I guarantee he will be gone. If not I will tatoo a picture of me making out with him on my forehead.

How will you have room with that large "L" already there? For a real joke, take a look between your legs.

1sneakysnake writes:

in response to Bearwuzacheater:

Can anyone tell me what channel number CBS College Sports is on the Directv system?

It is on 634 DIRECTV

BrassMonkey writes:

in response to navarrebeachvol:

How will you have room with that large "L" already there? For a real joke, take a look between your legs.

Really you are going to talk about big L's? How about the 6 we already have this year on the path to the worst season in Vol history? This team will not be bowl eligble this year or next, and we have losses upcoming to Kentucky and Vanderbilt which will not sit well with the fan base and ultimately lead to Doolittle's demise at the end of 2011.

illinoisvolfan writes:

in response to slaw_way:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

No, lose one and it's the toilet bowl. Win out and the bowl becomes bigger and much cleaner.

Juzkruzin writes:

in response to BrassMonkey:

Really you are going to talk about big L's? How about the 6 we already have this year on the path to the worst season in Vol history? This team will not be bowl eligble this year or next, and we have losses upcoming to Kentucky and Vanderbilt which will not sit well with the fan base and ultimately lead to Doolittle's demise at the end of 2011.

Brass Monkey you are not the one that sees nothing, so you either the ones that hears nothing or says nuttin. You say a lot that makes no sense and you certainlly don't hear anything. You can say CDD will be gone after this season, but if you have been listening to the Administration that is over football, he isn't going anywhere's. You talk like you have the inside line to the Administration's Offices where these decisions are made, win one or lose 4 the rest of the season, CDD will be on the sidelines next year, the next year, etc. I am wondering how they can get a tatoo on a pinhead. You picked the right name, because we all know anything made of brass has no brain, ie YOU. If you don't have anything but negative post go some where else. I don't see you getting the most popular poster on this site this year!!

Bearwuzacheater writes:

in response to DSmith1669:

613 out here on the west coast ---

I checked and 613 is the channel here on the east coast as well... thanks for the info!

IBleedOrange71 writes:

I loved watching Mr. Lathers put the smack down on Mark Ingram and drive McElroy to the ground all in the same motion. Ingram put everything he had into Lathers....and went flying backwards onto his arse!!! I am believing that we may have found Al Wilson Jr. Can I get an "Amen"?

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