Daryl Vereen a quick study at linebacker

Senior competing for outside spot

Highlights from spring football practice - April 7, 2011

Tennessee linebacker Daryl Vereen is one of the oldest Vols, one of the few fifth-year seniors on a team that is roughly comprised of 70 percent underclassmen.

Age for Vereen, though, is truly just a number. He’s going on just four years of experience at linebacker.

“As a player, you’re always learning,” said Vereen, a former tailback at North Mecklenburg High in Huntersville, N.C. “But as a player that’s never played linebacker until I got here, yes, I’m learning every day.”

With Herman Lathers largely relegated to the sidelines this spring because of off-season shoulder surgery, Vereen has never had a better shot at overcoming the steep learning curve and earning a regular starting position in UT’s linebacking corps.

“Spring is really where you get your spot. It’s where you earn your job,” Vereen said. “When it comes to August, it’s pretty much set, so really this is the time to try to do it.”

Lathers’ currently vacant spot likely won’t be filled by anyone but Lathers in the fall, but there is still another opening to fill on the outside. Because of his speed and size (215 pounds), Vereen has a good skill set for the strongside linebacker position, linebackers coach Peter Sirmon said, because he can drop back and be reliable in pass coverage while also having the ability to pack a punch on a blitz.

It’s just taken some time for Vereen to hone his craft.

“He first came in as a running back. That always sounds good on paper and that always sounds good in recruiting magazines,” Sirmon said. “But that’s a big leap of faith to say guys like that can transition quickly.”

Vereen, who started once, saw action in 11 games and finished 2010 with 18 tackles, has transitioned into a de facto leader among UT’s linebackers.

Lathers has the experience and tackles, but he’s not on the field, so players such as Vereen and fellow senior Austin Johnson, another converted running back, have emerged as the unit’s loudest voices.

“I hate making mistakes, I hate embarrassing myself, I hate embarrassing my teammates,” Vereen said. “I’m just really trying to be the leader for the defense and the one they can count on to make that play when it’s time.”

Scrimmage Take 2: The Vols will scrimmage for the second time this spring Saturday at Neyland Stadium, and coach Derek Dooley said he’s hoping to see “a lot of progress” from last week’s defense-dominated effort.

But he’s not holding his breath, particularly when it centers on a Vols’ passing attack that accounted for three interceptions and a sub-50 percent completion rate in last week’s scrimmage.

“It’s pretty abysmal right now,” Dooley said. “The reality is we’ll probably hit a few plays and we’ll probably not look very good.

“I’m not being a pessimist, but when you watch eight practices and expect something totally different on the ninth, you’re somewhat a lunatic if you think it’s going to happen.”

Goins Getting Tough: Former UT men’s basketball point guard Melvin Goins said the mental part of football, not the physical aspect, is giving him the most trouble since he joined the team last week.

“I’m used to basketball and you know your plays and you know where you’re supposed to go, so you react off instinct. Out here it’s all mental and now I’m thinking a lot,” said Goins, who has worked with the secondary and faced minimal contact thus far.

“That’s not really good. You want to be able to get the plays down and know your zones and just know where you’re supposed to be at on the field. So, it’s like 89 percent, 90, mental for me right now.”

Practice Report: The Vols donned shoulder pads and shorts Thursday for the first time this spring, as they practiced for 90 minutes before hundreds of high school coaches in town for a three-day coaching clinic.

According to Dooley, they watched an “immature” football team.

“I thought it would bring a little better spirit and energy level, but it wasn’t,” Dooley said. “It was our first day in shells and generally an immature football team doesn’t know how to practice in shells.

“You put the shorts on and they think you don’t come with the same mental intensity and physicality. We have to learn what it means to practice in shells and we don’t know right now.”

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble.

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Comments » 16

VolinCalif writes:

We'll get better.

everydayisorange writes:

I really think all the new plays being installed will help this fall. I don't think all the plays will be used this season, but will increase the offensive capability! The players are young and will only get better. I also think what seniors we have on the team will become leaders, which will make this team unexpectedly good and exciting to watch. I have predicted a 10 win season this year and will stick with it! GBO!!!

VOLliven2it writes:

in response to everydayisorange:

I really think all the new plays being installed will help this fall. I don't think all the plays will be used this season, but will increase the offensive capability! The players are young and will only get better. I also think what seniors we have on the team will become leaders, which will make this team unexpectedly good and exciting to watch. I have predicted a 10 win season this year and will stick with it! GBO!!!

Not a betting man but I believe if I was and we bet, you we will, I we won't get 10 wins, I'd take some money. I would love to see 10 happen but just do not feel we are there yet. When we get closer we will know it. All this said, we will be better and have a very good year. I just hope we do better in a bowl.

VolGrad writes:

As a rule, you don't "install" plays that you're not going to use. And if you fail to use it because you can't effectively execute it, then it isn't a capability.

Just saying.

GBO!

lguy (Inactive) writes:

I live in Charlotte and Vereen was one of the best, if not the best, running backs in Charlotte h.s. history. His power in h.s. wasn't enough for college, but he is an athlete. I have a feeling he is going to do great things as a linebacker. As I've posted before, remember this name. Vereen.

CroKev writes:

in response to VOLliven2it:

Not a betting man but I believe if I was and we bet, you we will, I we won't get 10 wins, I'd take some money. I would love to see 10 happen but just do not feel we are there yet. When we get closer we will know it. All this said, we will be better and have a very good year. I just hope we do better in a bowl.

"you we will, I we won't get 10 wins"

Take a breath and help me on this one...

Wayfarer writes:

I would be happy to see an 8 or 9 win season and see overall improvement from not only the team but the coaching staff as well. We lost at least 2 games due to time management and poor coaching. The LSU ending was painful last year as was the NC bowl game. Both the players and coaches have to put in the time to be better. More efficient use of the clock, innovated play callings, and other components are areas where the UT staff must improve.

I don't have illusions of a huge step this season but I do expect to see the team take solid strong steps to be better team. A team that know who is suppose to be on the field and who is not, a team that has a stronger playbook, and a team who has both physical strength along with mental discipline. I learned years ago that unrealistic expectations breeds disappointment. I would would rather see my expectation exceeded rather than not being met. I'll pull for victory every week and I'll hope to get them but I know we're are still green and have a serious depth problem.

GBO

fronix5000 writes:

green beans?

NorthwestVol writes:

Dooley's honesty is sometimes a bit harsh, but refreshing at the same time. A bit old school and I enjoy it.

A fifth year senior finally making a significant contribution would make a nice story. Hope it works out for both Vereen and the Vols.

Vol13 writes:

I am glad that Dooley is pushing these guys to improve and reach higher ground. I think he knows this team has a chance to surprise some people and be considerably better than last year. I hope he keeps pushing all the right buttons.

FarmerVol writes:

in response to VolGrad:

As a rule, you don't "install" plays that you're not going to use. And if you fail to use it because you can't effectively execute it, then it isn't a capability.

Just saying.

GBO!

Well said!! The plays being worked on are not experimental.. uhhh well if they don't work cause we don't have the horsepower, guess you could call them experimental. But to the point almost any fullback can be a linebacker cause they love contact, but can any linebacker be a fullback? We seem to be thin at the FB position. GBO

steamboatticket#484773 writes:

When I saw this article about Daryl Vereen, I thought it would tell us something about...Daryl Vereen. Does anybody know how DV is doing?

DennisVols writes:

This team is still very young and most of the plays offensive/defensive are new this year. The 1st time in 4 year the coach they ended a season with is the same one they are starting with. Throw in the youth factor and there are going to be a lot of growing pains this year.
Spring practice always brings out one of 2 things. Either your offense looks good and your defense stinks or the other way around your defense looks good but your offense stinks.
I like Dooley’s attitude and how he isn’t blowing smoke about all the improvements here and talent there. UT will be better this year but with all the new plays being inserted there still is going to be a lot of newness as well. It is going to take time. It took more than a decade to go from National Champs to what we had during Fulmer’s last season and the Kiffin deal cost UT a couple more years in the rebuilding process with all the players that left and some semblance of continuity with all the coaching changes.
In 2 more years this team will once again be loaded with JR and Senior players that will have a wealth of experience playing in this system. The talent coming in will have the opportunity to learn the plays before having to actually play them.
It is getting better each year, it is just too bad we had to hit bottom before we started back up.
Keeping it Real
GoVols!!!

MusicCityVol writes:

Hope Vereen and others step up. Linebacker is a weak spot right now.

It's "Spring" Football Time In Tennessee
http://checkerboardchatter.blogspot.c...

brokendownoldvol writes:

The middle linebacker spot worries me. Johnson didn't look good there at all last yr.

KC_Vol writes:

I love Dooley but dang, does he need to tell everyone how awful we are any chance he gets? It's getting depressing. I guess he comes from the Lou Holtz school of running down your players at every opportunity.

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