Curt Maggitt makes a few mistakes, plenty of plays

Tennessee defensive lineman Curt Maggitt, left, goes after Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead during the first half on Sept. 10 in Neyland Stadium.

Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2011

Tennessee defensive lineman Curt Maggitt, left, goes after Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead during the first half on Sept. 10 in Neyland Stadium.

UT head coach Derek Dooley talks about Curt Maggitt, NCAA investigation and scouting

Curt Maggitt

Curt Maggitt

Tennessee defensive lineman Curt Maggitt, left, goes after Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead during the first half on Sept. 10 in Neyland Stadium.

Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2011

Tennessee defensive lineman Curt Maggitt, left, goes after Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead during the first half on Sept. 10 in Neyland Stadium.

There are times before a play when Curt Maggitt's age is clear.

The freshman isn't the only Tennessee defender occasionally lining up in the wrong spot, and those kinds of errors aren't exactly a surprise for somebody who has gone from high school to starting in the SEC in less than a year.

"It's been a lot different, learning a lot and just coming out here every day to work," Maggitt said Tuesday during his first media appearance since joining the program. "It's a lot different than high school."

After the snap, it can get much more difficult to notice any change between the two levels for Maggitt.

Age, experience, even his position all seem to be hard to decipher as the hybrid defensive end/linebacker blurs the lines once a play starts. And Maggitt is certainly just as capable of bringing a down to an end with a fast, aggressive style that is working out fine regardless of how old he is as the Vols prepare for a non-conference meeting with Buffalo at home on Saturday (TV: CSS, 12:30 p.m.).

"(Physically) it's been about what I expected," Maggitt said. "With my position coach (Peter Sirmon), all we talk about is pre-snap alignment and tackling, and we go over that every day. That's the key thing for us. In high school I played defensive end, and coming to play linebacker in the SEC and starting, that's been a big difference for me.

"I'm just trying to make the best of it."

Maggitt hasn't wasted any time doing that for the Vols (2-1, 0-1 SEC), quickly proving himself as somebody the coaches couldn't keep off the field during training camp and winning a starting job before he'd even appeared in a game with the program.

Now he's got three under his belt as he gears up for the Bulls (1-3, 0-1 MAC), and Maggitt is starting to flash the potential that had UT so excited going into the season. Perhaps more telling about his upside, so far he's done it despite sometimes making it harder on himself to produce some of his 12 tackles — including one assist on a takedown for a loss at Florida and another sack he shared in a win over Cincinnati.

"The one thing he does, he plays with incredible energy, he plays with incredible toughness, effort, spirit and he's a big guy," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "So, when you add it all up, you can get by with making mistakes. That's what I've said all along.

"Good defenses make mistakes all the time, mental errors all the time. But when you've got 11 guys who can run and can hit and they're all flying to the football, it makes up for it. That's what he does."

Maggitt has some young company there with fellow freshman linebacker A.J. Johnson, and they're sharing some similarities both before the snap and after.

Both announced their presence and a possible peek into the future heading into the open date with impressive outings against No. 12 Florida. Maggitt picked up half of his season total in tackles and added a quarterback hurry, and Johnson shined with seven takedowns, a forced fumble and a recovery that kept UT competitive down the stretch.

Along with all those positives, there also were a few mental lapses along the way that offered a reminder they were freshmen. But there are times it's getting increasingly harder to figure that out once they get in motion.

"Some guys ... they just play," Dooley said. "They don't care that they make mistakes and they play fast. I think Curt's an example of that.

"They've got a lot of work to do because they make a ton of mistakes that create big plays for us on the other side, and that's what hurts you. When you're playing young guys, that's what happens. But they don't lack aggressiveness and running to the ball and hitting, and that's why I love them. The mistakes that they make are mistakes that are schematic adjustments and right away we're in trouble."

If the Vols are able to clean up that first part, so far there hasn't been much to complain for Maggitt about once a play actually starts.

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

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Comments » 11

volfanz writes:

These two linebackers are absolute beasts! I can't wait to see them terrorize the conference next year with the added experience!

Prostar writes:

Watched most of the Ind. Colts game sunday night. Their defense was swarming and revved up all night. That's what I want to see from our defense. Speed, swarming, agressive players. Polamalu got burned on one play but he was only a split-second away from tackling for a loss. On a side note, I wonder what Texas A&M coming to the SEC will do to our LB commit Santos.

HtownVol writes:

in response to Prostar:

Watched most of the Ind. Colts game sunday night. Their defense was swarming and revved up all night. That's what I want to see from our defense. Speed, swarming, agressive players. Polamalu got burned on one play but he was only a split-second away from tackling for a loss. On a side note, I wonder what Texas A&M coming to the SEC will do to our LB commit Santos.

Do NOT start with that.

I for one am counting on Santos to be the foundation to our Defense for the next few years. Along with the two mentioned above of course.

Those 3 along with J Smith and our secondary are very young and talented.

PLEASE start signing the great big time D-LINEMEN!!!!!

GO VOLS!

CroKev writes:

Just how big is Maggitt now? He's put on a lot of weight, evidently, since his Rivals HS page.

Vol_in_exile writes:

I hope Santos signs with us - and my sense we're still in the lead with him. Austin Johnson has looked good at MLB this year, but it would be really nice to have Santos lined up with A.J. & Curt. My only worry about the two fresh LB's: that like Janzen would have been and Hunter & Rogers likely will be, if they stay healthy as we all hope (and in Hunter's case, probably even after he didn't) that they won't be here more than 3 years. One of the downsides of picking outstanding players is the possibility/likelihood they won't be here more than three years.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Speedy LB's.

What a welcome concept.

MusicCityVol writes:

Maggitt has been legit. He is one of the positive surprises of the class of '11.
Tennessee's 2011 Recruiting Class: Surprises and Disappointments
http://www.checkerboardchatter.com/20...

Volunatic writes:

in response to Vol_in_exile:

I hope Santos signs with us - and my sense we're still in the lead with him. Austin Johnson has looked good at MLB this year, but it would be really nice to have Santos lined up with A.J. & Curt. My only worry about the two fresh LB's: that like Janzen would have been and Hunter & Rogers likely will be, if they stay healthy as we all hope (and in Hunter's case, probably even after he didn't) that they won't be here more than 3 years. One of the downsides of picking outstanding players is the possibility/likelihood they won't be here more than three years.

I'm fine with the Vols having a steady stream of outstanding players who go pro after their junior years. If the coaches can continue to bring in that level of players, the program will be fine.
I definitely wouldn't count on seeing Justin Hunter playing for Tennessee in the 2013 season, for instance, but if he has a great 2012, that would be okay with me, especially if the coaches recruit another future great who will be ready to play in 2013. (If Justin Hunter decides to play out his eligibility at UT, that would be even better, though.)

DannyVol writes:

Both of our frosh linebackers have a chance to be among the best in the nation very soon. Throw in our potential in the defensive backfield, defensive end, quarterback, receiver, offensive line (remember, they're mostly sophomores) and even running back (remember, Lane is a freshman) and who besides Adams says we are still in free-fall? I personally think that we have top-10/SEC championship potential next season. The lumps we are taking with underclassmen now will pay dividends later.

Volunatic writes:

in response to smoky_moUnTain_sasqUaTch:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I agree, but I have to admit that I'm now wondering if the new Lenny Kravitz album is as good as his first one. He is a talented guitarist.

johnlg00 writes:

I just saw the headline on GVX247 that Dalton Santos is taking a visit to Texas A&M. I hope the Vols can hang on to him. Otherwise, Maggitt and Johnson may have to be THE MEN next year. A strong finish to the season may make all the difference in holding onto Santos or getting someone just as good if Santos decides to stay "home".

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