Volunteers Defense To Pose Stiff Test For Herd

When Marshall travels to Knoxville, Tennessee, this Saturday for a first ever meeting with the University of Tennessee the question is which UT defense will show. Will it be the unit that has not allowed an offensive touchdown in the last three regular season games, back to 2002? Or will it be the unit that gave up 185 points in nine games in the heart of the 2002 season and 30 more to Maryland in the Peach Bowl(21.5 points per game)?

Tennessee held opponents to 17.5 points per game in 2002, allowing only 128 yards rushing a game, fourth best in the SEC. The pass defense was was even better, second in pass efficiency and third in yards given up per game (156 ypg) in the league many consider the best in the nation. The Vols were second overall in defense in the SEC.

Let us now look at the University of Tennessee Volunteer defense ("Wish that I was up on Rocky Top, down in the Tennessee hills…"):

On the defensive side of the ball, only four starters (all seniors) return from 2002: middle linebacker Robert Peace (6-3, 235; three solos verses Fresno); right cornerback Jabari Greer (5-10, 170); free safety Rashad Baker (5-11, 180; four solo tackles to lead UT in opener); and strong safety Gibril Wilson (6-1, 190; three tackles and one tackle-for-loss).

Defensive end will see the return of senior Constantin Ritzmann (6-4, 265), who was lost for 2002 on the last pre-season scrimmage of the fall. His replacement, junior Karlton Neal (6-4, 255) will start opposite of Ritzmann's return to the lineup. Also, sophomores Jason Hall (6-3, 265), J.T. Mapu (6-3, 265) and Parys Haralson (6-2, 240) will battle to play.

Inside at the tackles, senior Mondre Dickerson (6-5, 265) seems to have the right side locked up. Sophomore Greg Jones (6-6, 300) will bring a large presence to the left tackle. Freshmen Matt McGlothlin (6-0, 290) Tony McDaniel (6-7, 290) will run at the number twos.

Outside of Peace at middle linebacker, new faces abound on the wide and short-side linebackers. Sophomore Jason Mitchell (6-1, 220) appears to be ahead at "Will" while sophomore Kevin Simon (5-11, 225; three solos, two assists and one-half tackle-for-loss) has "Sam" sewn up. Backups include junior Kevin Burnett (6-3, 235) and sophomore Marvin Mitchell (6-3, 230 and no relation to Jason).

Sophomore Jason Allen (6-2, 200) looks to join Greer at cornerback, although for now freshman Antwan Stewart (6-0, 180) is the starter, with Wilson and Baker returning at the safeties. Other players in the mix are is sophomore Robert Boulware (5-10, 180) at corners; at free safety, freshman Corey Campbell (6-3, 195) will back up Baker; and freshman Jarod Parrish (6-2, 180) will back up Wilson at strong safety.

Turning to the special teams, a name familiar to Herd fans in Colquitt, as in Travis who punted for the Herd from 1992 through 1994, averaging nearly 42 yards per punt for Marshall. Another member of the family, junior Dustin Colquitt (6-2, 196) was second team All-SEC in 2002 and averaged 43.6 yards per punt. He had five punts for a 43.5 average on Saturday against Fresno. A freshman, James Wilholt (5-10, 190) appeared to have the edge at place kicker coming out of the spring and had one field goal (40 yards) in three attempts in the opener. Senior Phillip Newman (6-1. 190) appeared to be the kickoff specialist and may take the place-kicking job from Wilholt in fall camp.

Returning punts will be wide receiver Jones ( with five for 56 yards verses Fresno St.) and junior running back Corey Larkins (5-8, 205). Larkins (one for 24 yards against the Bulldogs) will return kickoffs as well, along with sophomore wide receiver Jonathan Wade (6-0, 180).

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