O'Brien 'ready to start grinding'

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Seven members of Tennessee's 2012 signing class enrolled in January and went through spring workouts and the Orange & White game.

A good portion of the remaining 22 signees are making their way to Knoxville before May's completion to get a head start on acclimating themselves to life as a student-athlete in college.

Ready to start the grind is Danny O'Brien.

"Oh I'm definitely excited," the four-star defensive lineman told InsideTennessee. "I've been ready to come for a while. It's just a part of life, moving away. I'm still going to be really close to my friends and family back home, but I'm ready to start grinding, I'm ready to start working hard, I'm ready to start playing college football. I'm really excited."

Making to move to his college home a couple months in advance of summer team camp is seen as nothing but a positive by O'Brien.

"I think it's great," he said. "I think it's what everybody should do because it's kind of a jump start. It gets us used to college life and we are getting used to taking classes and stuff like that and then workouts, which is great. I think that gives us an edge. Plus, we're going to be working really hard in the weight room and running. So, I think it can benefit in a lot of ways."

O'Brien, who is presently 6-feet-2, 305 pounds, totaled 68 solo tackles, 28 assists and four sacks in helping Powers Catholic (Mich.) High School to a 10-4 record that included the MHSA Div. 5 state championship.

Along the way, O'Brien suffered a shoulder injury that's repair took some time away from his workout regiment this winter.

"My shoulder is 100 percent," he said. "I've been really working my ass off lately and this last month and a half I have been working out 2-3 times a day. I think I'm in really good shape. I've been running a lot been doing a 2-mile run in the mornings before school. I feel like I'm in pretty good running shape, but I'm ready to work out with the team.

Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri may use O'Brien in a variety of ways.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
"It was hard for me to put on a lot of size because I was having to treat my shoulder. I just had to lay off on it. I couldn't really do any of the big lifts and I had to take it easy and kind of work my way back into being where I was. I think I'll be ready to go. My shoulder feels great."

FOX Sports Next and Scout.com ranked the Flint, Mich., native as the No. 18 defensive tackle in the country. With the implementation of a multiple-front defense, the Vols figure to play O'Brien both at tackle and nose guard.

"Both (Tennessee) coach Sal (Sunseri) and (defensive line) coach (John) Palermo always told me I can play up or down the D-line," O'Brien said. "They just look at me as kind of a guy that can play nose and D-tackle. And, in some situations, I can play end also.

"I'll just do whatever they tell me and play whatever position they want. I haven't really thought of where I will play, I just want to play."

Logging meaningful snaps in the trenches as a true freshman in the Southeastern Conference is no easy task. However, this Tennessee signee has firm plans to do exactly that.

"I came here because I want to play and play early. That's my goal. I don't want to be redshirted. In my mind, I feel like I'm ready to play some football. I've got to come in and adjust to the game speed and stuff like that. That's going to take a little bit, but I don't have any restrictions. I'm going to work hard. I want to be on the field in the fall," O'Brien said.

He will be paired with Sunshine State native and linebacker Kenneth Bynum as roommates. They are just a portion of what appears to be a class with built-in chemistry.

"I feel like our class has a great bond," O'Brien said. "We all have the same goal. I met a lot of guys (at the spring game). I think we have a special class in 2012. So, I'm ready to go."

Before the university places him and the rest of his signing class off limits to the media, O'Brien wanted to pass along a message to Big Orange Country:

"One thing is I really want to thank all the fans for what they do and all they do to support us. I know Tennessee has been off the last few years in football, but we are working to bring that back. We are going to bring our tradition back. We are going to start winning football games for them.

"Keep getting loud. I love every single fan. I would like to thank every fan and what they had to say. I always like talking to the fans. I appreciate everyone. I feel like they are as big of a part of our team as all our players."

Danny Parker is currently the Associate Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the InsideTennessee team July 2011.

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