Couch feels blessed to be on Rocky Top

Derek Dooley needed immediate help at defensive tackle following the 2010 season. May he have found it in Maurice Couch? Read more and find out as InsideTennessee.com brings you up to date on Couch's fall camp thus far.

Last fall, the Tennessee defensive line was as barren as it has been in a long time. What did Derek Dooley do? He sought immediate help in the form of Maurice Couch.

Couch, a 2011 four-star junior college prospect, however, is still adjusting to life in the Southeastern Conference.

"It has been kind of tough adjusting and learning the new plays," Couch said. "The fast tempo and playing against big guys is tough. Learning the plays is kind of hard because it's not just one position, you have to learn another switching left to right."

During his one season at Garden City Community College coach Jeff Tatum, Couch accrued 45 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, three sacks and one forced fumble.

Garden City used Couch on the edge in the 3-4 defense and moved him to the interior when lined up in the 4-3. One of Couch's biggest adjustments has been getting used to different positions at the Div. I level.

"That is another adjustment for me," Couch said. "I am usually playing on the outside in the three-tech(nique). Playing inside against Zach (Fulton), (James) Stone and (Alex) Bullard is kind of tough in there, but I am getting better.

"It was really difficult, but I am learning from the other guys like Malik (Jackson) and Marlin (Walls). They are keeping me motivated and I am getting better every day."

While junior college guys are normally expected to aide teams immediately, Dooley knows that the adjustment can be more than what some realize.

"I think he has shown exactly what we thought," Dooley said. "I don't expect a lot. I am happy he is here.

"It is overwhelming. And sometimes it is even more so for the junior college guys. It is just such a different experience. The tempo, the amount of stuff they are required to learn, but there are some positives that come."

Couch, who redshirted during the 2009 season and has three seasons to play on Rocky Top, came out of Orlando Edgewater High School.

During his senior high school season, Couch earned a list of accolades, including First Team All-State, All-Orange County and All-Metro selection. His senior stat line included 110 tackles and 13 sacks.

Although Couch lists himself at 305 pounds and says he has added considerable muscle mass, he seems to be enjoying the spread in the Gibbs Hall cafeteria.

"The food has just overwhelmed him — how good we eat here," Dooley said. "He is in the cafeteria smiling saying, ‘Coach, man, I am so glad to be out of the JUC(O). I told him, ‘So far we have given you all this and you haven't given us anything back.'"

Of the four defensive lineman that started for the Vols in the Music City Bowl — Victor Thomas, Chris Walker and Gerald Williams — the only returnee is Jackson. Thus, a glaring opportunity is staring the Florida native in the face.

Couch is still looking for his role in the Tennessee defense, but says the line seems to have a groove going during camp.

"We just have a rotation," Couch said. "Nothing is really settled as far as the depth chart. We are all just working as one unit."

Dooley knows that Couch still has to improve from a conditioning standpoint, but one thing is certain, no one is more excited for Couch to be at Tennessee than Couch himself.

"It is a blessing," he said. "I am very excited to be here."


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