Royal flush

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After three years spent working with Tennessee's linebackers, Greg King spent Sunday jawing with them. That's because, as of Sunday morning, he was a Vol tight end blocking and running routes against his former pals ... and chiding them at every opportunity.

"Everybody talks trash a little bit," King said. "We already started this morning, so I think I'm going to have a little fun with it."

King recorded five tackles in Friday's scrimmage, never suspecting it might be his last day on defense as a Volunteer. He told head coach Derek Dooley before Saturday's Picture Day that he'd be willing to "play a little fullback" if the Vols needed him there. Less than 24 hours later he was asked to play tight end.

"I got the call about 9 this morning," he said. "I was excited."

A redshirt junior whose first three seasons on The Hill were marred by a glut of injuries, King certainly has the size (6-feet-2, 239 pounds) and toughness to help at tight end. He also has a little background, having played the position on a part-time basis during his days at Memphis Melrose High School.

"They actually threw the ball to me a couple of times — little pop passes," he recalled. "I caught one. It was seven yards or something like that. I had one good reception but I was mostly blocking ... cracking people."

King believes he learned one thing playing tight end in high school that will help considerably in his return to the position at Tennessee.

"Firing off the ball," he said with a laugh. "You just fire off the ball and drive your man as far as you can."

Naturally, King has a long way to go before he'll qualify as a dependable option at tight end. He realized as much the first time a ball was thrown his way in Sunday's practice.

"I dropped my first one," he said, "but it felt good having the ball thrown to you ... like exactly to you and not away from you. It's pretty amazing."

Really, King says tight end isn't that different from linebacker.

"You're either running a route and catching a ball or you're knocking a ball down," he said. "I look at it like that."

Greg is the second King to switch from linebacker to tight end this preseason. Freshman Justin King transferred over the first week of fall camp. Greg King's move came in response to sophomore second-teamer Brendan Downs suffering a patella injury in Friday's scrimmage.

Greg King has a great attitude that should help his transition to tight end. Still, learning enough in two weeks to contribute in the Aug. 31 opener versus North Carolina State is a tall order.

"I'm hoping I can," he said. "I hope I can be that big factor in there. I think our team needs it, and I just want to give it my all, man."

Downs' absence leaves Tennessee with two bona fide tight ends on scholarship — Rivera and freshman Justin Meredith, who has scarcely practiced due to a nagging hamstring injury. Fullback Ben Bartholomew can play tight end in a pinch ... and the Vols definitely are in a pinch at present.

Although depth is perilously thin at the position, tight ends coach Charlie Coiner recalls seeing worse during his days as an assistant in the pros.

"Back to the NFL experience, I've been tight end coach where we had one," he recalled. "What you do is you go in with that guy and you have a plan to go 10 personnel (one tight end) if that happens.

"And I've been just the opposite — where you have a receiver go down and you have to go 22 or 13 personnel, where you use two or three tight ends. That's the one thing Jim Chaney, Coach Dooley and myself have done: You learn to coach what you have. I wish I had 'em all but you learn to get it done with what you have."

Hear King talk more about the move in the high-definition video from InsideTennessee below:

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