Attrition Central

Say this for Tennessee's linebackers: None of them can complain about not getting a shot in spring practice.

Due to a rash of injuries at the position, first-year linebacker coach Peter Sirmon spent much of the spring scrambling to keep three healthy players on the field at once. As a result, several 'backers got a lot of practice repetitions who normally wouldn't have. Being a positive sort of guy, however, Sirmon prefers to look at the benefits rather than the drawbacks.

"Guys get more opportunities," the Vol aide said recently. "Shane Reveiz got more reps and did some really good things with those reps. We started to work some more people into the nickel (package). It's been positive for some of the guys that didn't get a lot of reps early in camp."

Instead of settling on six guys who project to be the first- and second-teamers come fall, Sirmon leaves spring practice having learned a little bit about a lot of players. He's OK with that, however.

"I think it's good," he said. "It gives you a good baseline of where everyone's at and how everyone's progressing. It's unfortunate some of those guys got hurt but it is a positive thing to have a positive evaluation on every player."

One player who benefited significantly from the shakeup at linebacker was Reveiz. The younger brother of 2009-2010 starting middle linebacker Nick Reveiz got a bunch of playing time in the second spring scrimmage and responded with nine tackles.

"Shane's done well," Sirmon noted. "It's hard to go in and compete with limited reps, when everyone else has had a lot of reps in everything we've installed, but he's done a nice job of picking it up. Football's important to him, so he's done a nice job of adapting."

Ultimately, health problems slowed four of the Vols' top five linebackers this spring. Junior Herman Lathers was limited following shoulder surgery. Senior Austin Johnson missed the last week of drills with a sprained knee. Sophomore John Propst missed a week with a hamstring pull but recovered in time to participate in the Orange & White Game. Junior Greg King was sidelined for a spell by a concussion.

Prior to his injury, Propst was making real progress at middle linebacker.

"Propst had a nice spring," Sirmon said. "It's too bad he got cut short a little bit but he still got reps mentally."

Johnson's injury was doubly detrimental since he is being counted on to contribute significantly at both weakside and middle linebacker.

"He's playing a couple of positions right now but he's done a great job all spring," Sirmon said. "Any time you're asking people to learn multiple positions it's tough, but he's done a great job. He's coming along well.

"All of the guys are coming along well. They're learning our concepts and terminology."

They're learning to battle through injury, too.


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