Brewer finds a home

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He always hit like a linebacker; now Brent Brewer gets to line up like one.

At 6-feet-1 and 214 pounds, Brewer was a tad big for a Tennessee safety last season. He also was a tad slow. As a result, he contributed just 27 tackles, zero interceptions, zero pass breakups and zero passes defended to arguably the worst defense in program history.

In an effort to get more speed on the field in 2013, Tennessee is switching Brewer from strong safety to weakside linebacker this spring. It's a move he embraces.

"Oh, yeah," he said. "Once they told me I was happy. I called my family and everything. I love it."

No wonder. The move means he'll be covering tight ends who run 4.7s instead of wide receivers who run 4.4s. That's a much more advantageous matchup for the rugged senior from Tyrone, Ga.

"I'll be covering the tight end a lot," Brewer said. "Against certain personnel, I'll split out, cover a wide receiver and reroute 'em."

After starting at strong safety as a freshman and sophomore, he was relegated to a backup role last season. At linebacker he'll have a chance to maximize his skills and move back into the starting lineup. Teammates say he is the hardest hitter, pound for pound, on the team.

"I'm a physical person," he said. "I'm fast, and I like that physical play down there (in the front seven). I think it will be a pretty easy adjustment."

Still, the move to weakside linebacker will present some challenges.

"I've just got to get in there, learn the right fits and everything," Brewer said. "I'm not used to reading the offensive line – pulling guards and things – so I'm getting in the film room with (linebacker coach Tommy Thigpen) and learning everything."

In addition to learning a lot, Brewer is eating a lot to prepare for his new role. Coaches want him to play at 225 pounds. He's at 223 currently.

Although he practiced some at linebacker last spring, Brewer says he didn't stay long enough to learn anything that will help him this year.

"I really didn't know the run reads of playing linebacker," he said. "I was just out there using my athletic ability. Now I'm learning to read the line, the quarterback, the running back and stuff."

Given how horrendous Tennessee's 2012 defense was, getting a fresh start with a new scheme and a new staff is a real godsend.

"It's a great thing," Brewer said. "Last year … it wasn't a good year. I'm getting a fresh start, working hard every day and showing 'em I can play."

After switching to a 3-4 scheme in 2012, Tennessee is returning to its traditional 4-3 in 2013. Brewer thinks having a background in the 4-3 will be a real plus.

"It helps a lot, playing a basic defense like we did my freshman and sophomore years," he said. "Getting used to it is pretty easy. There are some little change-ups here and there but it's a lot of similar stuff."

In addition to being more familiar, the 4-3 scheme will be more user-friendly.

"It's a lot simpler," Brewer said. "Everything last year was too much thinking. You can't play while you're thinking so much. Now we'll get to go out there and play fast."

There appeared to be some confusion among Vol defenders last fall. Brewer says that's because there was.

"Oh, yeah," he said. "A lot of it."

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