Walls return

Tuesday afternoon not only meant the beginning of spring practice, but also the return of redshirt sophomore Marlon Walls. Read as InsideTennessee catches up with the Tennessee defensive tackle.

Tuesday afternoon did just mark the start of spring practice, but also the return of defensive tackle Marlon Walls.

Walls, a redshirt sophomore, is returning to the field after missing the 2010 season following an Achilles tendon rupture last August. After a grueling rehabilitation regiment Walls says he is ready to roll.

"I am 100 percent, there are no excuses, it is actually strong than my right one," said Walls. "I have been ready to go for at least two or three months."

Walls went through rehabilitation side-by-side with defensive end Ben Martin, who incidentally ruptured his Achilles tendon two days prior to Walls.

Unfortunately for Martin, he relapsed by once again rupturing the same tendon. Walls said watching it happen, once again, to his defensive teammate brought back stressful memories.

"The first time it happened he tore his and then I tore mine in the next two days," said Walls. "I just felt like if I could get through those two days I would be fine. I talk to Ben almost every other day and I just let him know to keep his head up because that is a stressful time."

Missing an entire season was a heavy weight on Walls, but it did give the pass rusher a chance to reflect and learn his craft.

"Rehab was stressful, but the positive thing out of it was I got a chance to sit back and watch for a while," said Walls. "Learn what I need to do better, what other people are doing better – watch them and critique them."

Walls, currently 283 pounds, hopes to tip the scales at a minimum of 290 pounds come fall camp in order to help an undersized Tennessee defensive line. A goal he says will come by shoveling in plenty to grub.

Walls said he had almost come to expect change on his coaching staff and while the familiar site of Derek Dooley at the helm was comforting, the defensive lineman is learning from a new position coach, Lance Thompson.

"Coach T is a good coach," said Walls. "When you do good he is going to praise you, but when you mess up he is going to get after you. And that is what we need. The expectations are really high right now."

Walls has been thrown back into the starting lineup, at least at the beginning of spring ball, but he knows wolves are waiting in the shadows.

"I got some pretty good guys behind me and I know that my spot is going to be challenged," said Walls. "I just have to stay focused and stay hungry."

When asked of Walls return, Derek Dooley said he wouldn't be excited about anyone showing up in the backfield when his team was only baring helmets. The real tests will come when the Vols bear full gear later in the week.

Marlon Walls, Derek Dooley and the Volunteers will return to the practice field in helmets, jerseys and shorts once again this afternoon.

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