Healthy attitude

He won a starting job four games into his freshman season of 2009, only to have an assortment of nagging injuries wreck his rookie year. Then he suffered a knee injury in the 2010 opener that led to season-ending surgery just four games into his sophomore year.

Like everyone who follows Tennessee football, linebacker Greg King wonders where his career would be today had he stayed healthy.

"All the time," he said following Saturday's practice, flashing a pained grin. "All the time."

Even so, he is determined to turn the page from "what if" to "what is" in 2011. Clearly, his health history is not among his favorite topics.

"It's getting old to me," he said. "But things happen in football. You expect that. It's getting old to me. I'm ready to be healthy and ready to play."

Tennessee's coaches would like nothing better because the junior from Memphis just might be the team's most physically gifted linebacker.

"They've got high expectations of me," he said. "I really want to be able to show them (the high level he's capable of) but I've got to be healthy to be able to show them."

Although he now packs 240 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame, King moves as well as he did as a 220-pound freshman two years ago. That's because he's healthy ... for once.

"I'm full-go," he said.

That's fortunate because one of Tennessee's key linebackers is not. Herman Lathers, the only returning starter from the Vols' 2010 'backer corps, probably will miss four to six games while he continues recovering from a broken ankle. Fortunately for the Vols, several players are adept at all three linebacker positions.

"That's our job; we've got to know each other's positions," King said. "We've got to be able to play every linebacker position on the field, so when one goes down, another one steps up. It's a competition thing."

Although working primarily at the Will (weakside) position, King also is seeing some practice time at Mike (middle) and Jack (wide side of the field).

"I'm more comfortable at Will," he said, "but I'm getting pretty good at Mike."

Most observers see linebacker as a weak area for the Vols. King begs to differ. He believes freshmen A.J. Johnson, Christian Harris and Curt Maggitt can bolster Tennessee's depth.

"They're looking good," King said. "Curt, A.J., Christian — all of 'em — they're looking real good."

King suffered yet another injury — this time to his knee — during the summer that limited his offseason work.

"Conditioning-wise, I'm behind," he said. "But you've got to push through it."

Greg King has a lot of experience pushing through it. He seems to have spent most of his college career in rehab.

"It's depressing," he conceded, "but you've got to fight through it. You've got to do that for you and for the team."

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