Is Tall Tony the answer?

First, Tennessee lost defensive tackle J.T. Mapu to a Mormon mission.

Then it lost defensive tackle Mondre Dickerson to graduation.

Then it lost defensive tackle Matt McGlothlin to a one-year suspension.

Then it lost defensive tackle Greg Jones to an academics-related redshirt year.

Losing four D-tackles in four months has Vol defensive line coach Dan Brooks ready to pull out his hair ... but it has Tony McDaniel ready to pull out all the stops.

McDaniel is a 6-8, 300-pound sophomore with potential as imposing as his size. That potential is largely untapped to date but, given the erosion of depth at UT's defensive tackle position, McDaniel figures it's time he became the player he was meant to be. He'll certainly get every opportunity to improve himself this preseason.

''That really motivates me,'' he said. ''I know I've got to stop playing around. I've got to get stronger and learn quicker than I've been learning.''

Head coach Phillip Fulmer has called McDaniel Tennessee's ''most athletic tackle,'' and the towering South Carolinian is clearly flattered by the remark.

''That definitely makes me feel good,'' he said. ''The coaches are always telling me how good I am and that I need to realize it. I think I got a handle on things last year, and I think I'll have a good year this season.''

Despite the attrition, he thinks Tennessee's D-tackle corps as a group will have a good season, as well.

''I think the guys we have at defensive tackle are good enough to get the job done,'' McDaniel said. ''The coaches are going to move some ends to tackle but I think the tackles we have already are pretty good.''


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