Fifth-year Vol paying the price

Storylines are hard to come back when training camp deep into the double digits. Tennessee linebacker Herman Lathers' is one worth reading up on. Check out this story before watching the HD video interview the fifth-year Volunteer did with InsideTennessee.

Twelve games his first season on the active roster. Twelve starts. Freshman All-SEC recognition.

Not A.J. Johnson. Not Tennessee linebackers of yore. Herman Lathers.

Including a redshirt year in 2008, dashes fill the career statistics page for the fifth-year linebacker. As a child he battled back from cancer. As a budding adult, he's now undergone so many surgeries he doesn't rightly know how many times he's gone under the knife.

From learning his position under the likes of John Chavis, Monte Kiffin, Lance Thompson, Peter Sirmon, Sal Sunseri and Brandon Staley, the Bayou 'backer has a wealth of knowledge to pass along younger Volunteers that surround him in the depth chart, huddle and meeting rooms.

As one of seven Volunteers remaining that was signed by former head coach Phillip Fulmer, Lathers is one of the few holdovers with much of a knowledge of the Tennessee versions that won their way to the Southeastern Conference championship in Atlanta. While he hasn't sniffed a ring of that type since becoming a Vol, he was recruited during the 2007 season when the SECCG featured the Big Orange.

Even at 6-feet, 230 pounds with a thick base of muscle mass, Lathers is dwarfed in the first-team huddle by the rest of the front seven. Yet, his presence with that side of the ball means as much or more to their success as anyone's.

The ice tub is his friend. He's a veteran when it comes to having ankles taped and seeing his knees loaded up with bulky braces. But, instead of getting a jumpstart on the real world this summer, the 22-year-old logged countless hours of film study to learn first-year Tennessee defensive coordinator Sunseri's scheme.

National Football League organizations know the sport's grind and rarely use draft selections on players with as many scars as a young Frankenstein. So, with his gridiron career likely in its twilight, there's Lathers learning and bettering himself so he can relay the scheme and the message to his teammates in hopes of getting Tennessee football back to mention with the SEC's elite.

Lathers didn't participate in Friday afternoon's scrimmage at Neyland Stadium. After the team took Saturday off for Media Day, he came out Sunday in a red no-contact jersey. Same for Monday. Only so many bullets in the chamber and coach Derek Dooley is hoping his veteran can drop the hammer with every one of them.

To hear what Lathers said about molding other linebackers behind him, former Vol Rico McCoy and getting the team together to watch video of the 1998 BCS National Championship team, click play on the high-definition video below from InsideTennessee:

Danny Parker is currently the Managing 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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