Hide and seek

You can always count on InsideTennessee for colorful stories. Check out this one about a little guy who could be a big key in Saturday's Vol-Vanderbilt football game:

Tackling Vanderbilt tailback Jerron Seymour will be no easy task for Tennessee defenders in Saturday night's showdown at Neyland Stadium. Heck, simply locating him is difficult.

Thanks to a 5-foot-6, 200-pound frame that routinely elicits comparisons to NFL standout Maurice Jones-Drew, Seymour often hides behind Commodore blockers until he finds a crease, then accelerates upfield for yardage.

"Jerron has the ability to kind of get lost in the blocking scheme," Vol defensive coordinator John Jancek said. "Then all of a sudden he comes squirting out of there."

Tennessee linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen touched on the same theme, noting: "He's kind of hidden in there (behind the linemen), then all of a sudden he spits it out. He's low to the ground but he's compact. He weighs over 200 pounds, so he's hard to bring down. He's had big runs in every game he's played."

When he isn't hiding behind his linemen, Seymour is ducking under would-be tacklers. He presents such a small target that staying low enough to land a clean shot is exceptionally difficult for rival defenders.

"Exactly!" Vol linebacker Dontavis Sapp said, laughing at the thought.

So, what must Tennessee defenders do in order to stay low enough to keep Seymour from ducking under them?

"That's why we play defense … to figure things like that out," Sapp said. "He's a smaller guy and kind of thick in the legs, so we've just got to bend our knees and put a hat on him."

Obviously, leverage is especially critical in tackling a back with a low center of gravity like Seymour's.

"He's real low to the ground, so you've got to do a great job of bending your knees and getting down," Jancek said. "And you've got to wrap up because he's got a strong lower body. He has good agility and good quickness, so he's a challenge because he's got really good balance and he's a little bit shorter."

Though overshadowed by high-profile receiver Jordan Matthews, Seymour is giving Vandy a solid rushing attack. He's averaging 4.4 yards per carry and 61.8 rushing yards per game. Thigpen believes the half-pint halfback is grossly underrated.

"He beat out a good running back in the (Wesley) Tate kid," the Vol aide said. "When we played ‘em at Auburn last year I thought Tate was one of the premier running backs in the conference. For Seymour to beat out Tate says a lot about that kid."

Seymour nearly wound up being a Vol. Derek Dooley offered a scholarship in the summer of 2010 before opting to go local by taking diminutive Knoxville tailback/return man Devrin Young instead of a diminutive tailback/return man from Hialeah, Fla.

Tackling Seymour may prove especially difficult for a Vol linebacking corps whose motto could be "No rest for the weary." Depth behind A.J. Johnson, Dontavis Sapp and Brent Brewer is so thin that the starters play virtually every snap. Their stats underscore this point: Johnson has a team-best 84 tackles; backup John Propst has 7. Sapp has 54 tackles; backup Christian Harris has 5. Brewer, though usually replaced when Tennessee goes to its "nickel package" of five defensive backs, has 21 tackles; backup Greg King has 2.

"I wish I didn't have to put so much volume on them," Thigpen said of his starters, "but I had to. With the schedule we've had – six teams in the top 10 – it's been a challenge. It's been a really good challenge."

After playing his starters nearly every snap of the first 10 games, Thigpen is understandably concerned that they're fatigued as they head into Game 11 against Vanderbilt.

"Yeah, they are worn down," the coach conceded. "But A.J.'s in great physical shape. He can play on and on and on, so I don't worry about his volume or his legs. He's a special guy. And Sapp is always bouncing around. He doesn't dog it at all. He gives you 110 percent every single play.

"Still, we've got to get some other guys ready to play. We've got to get (Jalen) Reeves-Maybin, some reps. Other guys like Propst, who knows all the positions, and Christian Harris need to play."

Dontavis Sapp

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