Daniel on defense

One Tennessee Vol went from 245 pounds to 300 in his first 18 months on campus, yet that wasn't the most dramatic change he's undergone.

An even greater transformation for redshirt sophomore Daniel Hood was going from offensive tackle to defensive tackle, a move he made this spring at his own request.

Hood, who started at both offensive and defensive tackle in leading Knoxville's Catholic High School to a state title in 2008, admits that he enjoyed his fling as a blocker in college.

"There's nothing more fun," he said, "than picking up somebody and dumping them on their back."

Still, he increasingly found himself longing to play defense again.

"I missed the aggressiveness of playing defense," he said. "When I was in high school we had a great defensive line and a great defensive line coach. I think we were plus-40 in turnovers, and that's why we won the state championship that year. I kind of miss causing turnovers."

The itch to play defense finally go so bad that Hood pleaded his case before Tennessee's head coach.

"I approached Coach (Derek) Dooley about it," Hood recalled. "He said he'd have to talk to the staff about it."

While Dooley was talking with the staff, Hood was working with new strength and conditioning coach Ron McKeefery in order to get in the best shape of his life.

"The whole offseason I was working hard, doing everything Coach Mac said - and some extra," Hood recalled. "Now that they're giving me the chance to play defense, I want to make the most of it."

After redshirting as a freshman in 2009, Hood worked his way up to second-team right offensive tackle in 2010. Still, he thinks he can help the 2011 Vols more on the other side of the scrimmage line.

"I always thought I'd be better at defense," he said. "I was getting pretty decent at using my hands (to block) but I wanted to move to defense because running into somebody is more fun than blocking down all the time."

After working with and attending positional meetings with Tennessee's offensive linemen for nearly two years, Hood admits that lining up across from them at practice each day feels a little odd.

"I'm really close with the other offensive linemen," he said, "but now I compete even harder against them. I think this will make them better and make me better."

One of the offensive linemen Hood faces in practice each day is massive Zach Fulton, a 6-5, 334-pound sophomore guard. That's a stern test that makes Hood glad he has added 55 pounds since arriving on The Hill.

"If you're 245 pounds and you hit Zach Fulton, who could one of the best guards in the SEC, you're hardly going to make a dent," he said. "You've got to have mass and acceleration to get enough force to move him."

Even carrying 55 pounds more than when he arrived on campus, Hood says he's comfortable with the extra weight.

"Of course, you lose a little speed with it," he said, "but you feel more powerful when you hit somebody."

That power shows up in the weight room. Hood's bench press and squat have increased by approximately 100 pounds each since he arrived on campus in August of 2009.

"I think a lot of that is (a credit to) Coach Mac," he said. "With Coach Bennie (Wylie), we never did the high weights."

Even though he is bigger and stronger than he has ever been, Hood is finding the switch to defense to be a challenge. There's much to learn.

"Just getting all the techniques right takes time," he said. "Defense is more about firing off into somebody and using your hands. And the pass rush is tough to pick up.

"It's a transition."


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