Weighty issue

One Tennessee football player is playing a numbers game all by himself this spring. The numbers are three down and 30 up.

Fourth-year junior Willie Bohannon knows the Vol defensive end ranks are three down now that Chris Walker and Gerald Williams are out of eligibility and fifth-year senior Ben Martin is sidelined by a torn Achilles.

As for the 30 up ... that refers to his weight. At 6-2 and 250, he's 30 pounds up from where he was just two years ago.

"My lowest weight was 220 when we was working with Coach (Mark) Smith, the first strength coach with Coach Kiffin," Bohannon explained following a recent spring practice. "We did a lot more running then."

Smith was released just six months into his Tennessee tenure and replaced by Aaron Ausmus. Bohannon gained about 10 pounds under the new strength coach but struggled to play end at 230 pounds in 2009. With Bennie Wylie serving as strength coach in 2010, Bohannon got up to 238 last season.

Counting Johnny Long, who ran Tennessee's weight program when Bohannon arrived as a true freshman, Bohannon is now working with his fifth strength coach in four years - Ron McKeefery. The new strength coach seems to be pushing all the right buttons.

"Two-fifty, that's the highest I've ever been," Bohannon said, adding: "I know if I don't gain weight I'm not going to be able play, so I've been really trying to gain."

Despite the addition of 30 pounds in the past 24 months, Bohannon says he sees no loss of speed.

"I really can't tell a difference at all," he said. "I've just been working as I gain weight, so I haven't really thought about. I still have the same motor."

Although the added weight hasn't impacted his speed, he says it has affected his strength in a very positive way.

"My strength levels have went way up," he said. "It's been great working with Coach Mac. There's been so much focus on getting stronger. I jumped 20 pounds in my bench over the course of eight weeks and I've jumped 40 pounds in squats."

You'd figure Bohannon's weight gain could be attributed to a high-calorie diet but you'd be wrong. He says the reason is much simpler than that.

"I just eat like I'm supposed to," he said. "I used to miss meals, thinking, 'Oh, I'll eat later on today' or 'I'll go do this instead of go eat.' Now I've been eating like I'm supposed to and working a lot, and it's been working out for me."

Bohannon had an interesting season in 2010. He ranked among the team leaders in tackles for loss (3.5) and sacks (2), even though he saw mostly mop-up action, missed two full games and finished the season with a mere 9 total stops.

Now that there has been so much attrition at the defensive end position, however, he knows he could be a key figure in 2011, noting: "When Ben got hurt it dawned on me. It's just been eye-opening ... like 'You have to be a leader now. You have to step up and be that leader.'"

In addition to five strength coaches, Bohannon is working under his fourth defensive line coach as a Vol. The Mobile, Ala., native toiled for Steve Caldwell as a freshman in 2008, for Ed Orgeron as a redshirt freshman in 2009, for Chuck Smith as a sophomore in 2010 and is currently serving under former University of Alabama assistant Lance Thompson.

"I like him," Bohannon said of Thompson. "I've been with him for a long time. I've known him since Alabama because I was recruited by him. He's not a new person to me."

At 250 pounds, though, Bohannon may seem like a new person to Vol fans this fall.

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