Daniel Hood on being comfortable in his position
Daniel Hood's conversion from offensive lineman to a defensive tackle is going well. All signs are encouraging.
Don't take my word for it:
"We're encouraged by him,'' Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley said Tuesday when the Vols opened practice.
"He's a big body,'' the coach added, "he's tough, he's committed. I think he's going to help us up front.''
Historically speaking, though, Hood is swimming upstream.
Going back 20 years or so, what do Trey Teague, Charles McRae, Fred Weary, Jason Layman, Kevin Mays and Vlad Richard have in common?
They all began their careers on the defensive line and converted to offense. All of the above but Richard were first-team All-SEC honorees.
Name the last UT player who moved over from the offensive line and had an impact on defense?
Well? If you can think of one, shoot me an email.
An office historian came up with Mark Hovanic in the mid-1980s. But he played a half-dozen positions before ending up at defensive tackle so he's an asterisk at best.
Perhaps that's why Dooley didn't initially embrace Hood's suggestion of a switch.
Hood played both ways at Knoxville Catholic en route to being named Mr. Football in Class 3A in 2008. Lane Kiffin signed him as an offensive lineman and that's where he toiled in obscurity during his redshirt year in 2009.
When Dooley arrived in January 2010, he met with each player.
"Of course, he had no idea who I was and I had no idea who he was,'' Hood said. "I told him defense was something I'd like to try one day if offense doesn't work out.
"He kind of said, 'Oh, yeah, have a good day,' and I spent the whole year on offense.''
Last February they had a similar meeting. Hood again suggested a switch and this time Dooley was more receptive. After a staff discussion, Hood got the green light for spring practice.
By the end of spring, Hood won the award for the defensive surprise of the spring. He's listed as the starter at nose tackle going into fall camp and will almost certainly be in the rotation.
"It just feels more natural,'' he said of defense, "even in something as basic as the stance. I've got more power going forward. I'm able to play with better pad level and read my keys better.
"Everything seems easier.''
There's spring, though, and then there's the real thing. Apples and oranges.
Hood knows this. He knows he has yet to be tested against Florida and Alabama and the like.
Being tough enough or physical enough, that doesn't worry him. His concerns are more technical.
"The only thing I've been able to learn is how our offense does stuff,'' he said. "I don't know how Florida's line is going to play or how South Carolina's line is going to play.
"I'll have to put in more film work and pick up some details.''
Dooley also is anxious to see how Hood holds up under live fire.
"Yeah, there is (concern),'' said Dooley, "just because he's never done it before.
"But the way he's progressing, it gives you a little more confidence.''
Time will tell.
That Hood's path to the other side of the line of scrimmage is the one less traveled doesn't mean it can't take him to a good place.