Curt Maggitt focused on linebacker

Lessons learned over a tough season

Curt Maggitt signs with Tennessee

In a figurative sense, Tennessee's coaches have tried to decrease the number of responsibilities on Curt Maggitt's plate as the season has progressed.

In a literal sense, with Maggitt down 10 pounds from where he started the year, those same coaches would love to see him load up his plate at every opportunity.

Through most of his high school career, Maggitt played below 200 pounds. And that was almost always on the defensive line.

When fall camp opened in August, Maggitt, after an offseason of intense weight-lifting and eating, had ballooned up to 235 pounds. At the time, as he came on strong and instantly emerged as one of UT's most talented defenders, there was talk of him playing at both outside linebacker, the position he was recruited to play, and defensive end for pass rush situations.

Now, Maggitt is 225 pounds and playing exclusively at linebacker.

"It's easier for other guys to keep weight on than it is Curt. That's his body type," defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. "He's got to be disciplined as an eater throughout the season and he'll learn how to do it as he matures.

"He's tried but it hasn't worked out all the time."

Up and down, back and forth, Maggitt's freshman season has certainly had its share of instability. The results, though, have been constant.

Maggitt, after picking up SEC freshman of the week honors against Vanderbilt for his 2.5 tackles for a loss, trails just fellow UT linebacker A.J. Johnson for the SEC freshman lead in tackles (49) and is also second among SEC freshmen with 5.5 tackles for loss. He'll have one more opportunity in his first regular season with the Vols (5-6, 1-6 SEC) to tack on to those figures Saturday (TV: WVLT, 12:21 p.m.) at Kentucky (4-7, 1-6).

"We're using Curt where he can help us most and he's doing a heck of a job at linebacker," defensive line coach Lance Thompson said. "In nickel situations, he's the guy on the field that runs around and looks like a dadgum cat out there chasing people. I think we've got him in the best position to help us play good defense."

Originally, that position was at two different places, as Maggitt garnered loads of praise from Thompson during the preseason for his ability to rush the passer. Thompson called him a "special guy coming off the edge" and it prompted a plan that entailed Maggitt splitting time at linebacker in base packages and defensive end on nickel passing downs.

After a few games, with Daryl Vereen struggling at the position Maggitt was vacating to play on the defensive line, that plan was scrapped.

"We have three linebackers who are playing really well and we can't afford to overload them or wear them down physically," coach Derek Dooley said. "We don't have enough depth to be able to do that. We'd like to.

"I think it would help us. But all of a sudden you put him there and everything else starts suffering. You're robbing Peter to pay Paul."

Though Maggitt has continued to play at a high level, the grind of his first college season has taken its toll. He missed the South Carolina game with a strained calf and has seen 10 of the pounds he added to his frame during the offseason drop off his body.

Linebackers coach Peter Sirmon said Maggitt came back from the calf injury with fresh legs, and it's shown. He isn't concerned with Maggitt's weight loss, either, because he's seen it happen to players plenty of times.

"You kind of get tired and you're not lifting as much," Sirmon said. "You're going to lose some muscle mass just from that. As many calories as you're burning, it's natural to lose some weight."

Sirmon hasn't set an ideal weight for Maggitt, and he doesn't plan to. Not only has Maggitt been hitting opponents with the force of a much bigger player, but he doesn't see the need to add an extra item to the busy linebacker's to-do list.

Maggitt already has enough on his plate.

"I don't want a guy who has to artificially get that weight up because I don't think he's going to be able to handle it during the season and I don't think it's going to be a good weight," Sirmon said. "I think he needs to continue to develop and mature.

"When he develops into a man, I think he's going to have that natural weight, he'll thicken up and he'll be fine."

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Comments » 12

nepperso#220348 writes:

This UT defense is going to be awesome next season. And in two years, look out... completely sick!

Huttdawg100 writes:

Maggit has been impressive from day. He and AJ remind me of those old school linebackers that Chief would coach up.

dvhill100 writes:

If CDD can continue to bring in players of this caliber going forward, we'll get back to the promised land.

OrangePsyched writes:

We plug Santos into the equation with AJ and Curt and we'll have as good a linebacker crew as anyone in the SEC in 2 years. I would prefer a great defense over a great offense anytime..though it would be nice to have both. Seems like the season just started and now it's almost over. VFL!

Myrtlevol writes:

If our sophomore class on offense stays till they are seniors and our freshman class on defense will be juniors, we should be able to do some great things. Just hope the incoming d-tackles can produce quickly. Future is looking bright!

cloudodust writes:

The LB'ing corps is shaping up to be, once again, a force to reckon with Atop Rocky. I think we're in for a some good D ahead. I believe of all the asst's Vince Dooley had, Erk Russell had the greatest impact on CDD in his youth. That my friends, would be a good thing...

wildmed writes:

If every player had a motor like Maggitt's this would be SOME team. Of course, he has a wealth of natural talent and ability, and coupled with his intense drive, the sky is the limit! GBO!

volsfan74 writes:

in response to Myrtlevol:

If our sophomore class on offense stays till they are seniors and our freshman class on defense will be juniors, we should be able to do some great things. Just hope the incoming d-tackles can produce quickly. Future is looking bright!

Wishful thinking! I can almost assure you that Rogers and Hunter are both gone after next year barring any major changes (another injury etc). Bray I think it will depend on how the QB talent in the draft looks, if he is assure he will be drafted in those first 2 rounds he will go too.

CroKev writes:

Any word on whether Christian Harris will red-shirt?

PowerT4L writes:

in response to CroKev:

Any word on whether Christian Harris will red-shirt?

Christian Harris will not play.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

I think our defense will rock for the next couple years. Here's THE BAD NEWS!!!!

Next year will be the final year for our offensive nucleus. Bray, Hunter, and Da'rick will leave after next year. I just hope we can put it all together next year and I expect we will be in the hunt at least for the East division championship. We should be able to give Bama and LSU a stout test next year. GBO!

EHSvols23 writes:

Call me an optimist, but I don't see the offense breaking up next year. For starters, we have NO IDEA how Hunter will come back from this surgery. Many players are not able to fully return until 18 months has passed. Plus, it seemed he really has enjoyed his time at UT, with his interests in track. I see him staying until his senior year.

As for Bray, it really depends. I could say it goes both ways. I think a real unknown to these college players NOW is the new CBA in the NFL. The huge money incentive is not as much as it was. Given the new structure, you will see alot of other positions be drafted early, not just QBs, WRs, and linemen. IF I had to put a number on it, Bray stays 60-40.

Rodgers is the most likely to go, and I can't say I blame him. IF IF IF he has a junior year like this year, he would have earned a high 1st round grade. However, if he just has a bad year, suffers a 4 to 5 game injury, then maybe they all sit around, say let's get the band back together, and go at it as seniors. They will have great incentive as being the group that put UT back on the national scene. In that sense, no matter what would occur in their NFL futures, they would always be legends in Knoxville.

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