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.