A look at the Defensive Line

The team heads into the season with just three players possessing division-one experience. Justin Harrell, Tony McDaniel, and LaRon Harris are the veterans of the group. However, when you take into account the total snaps each has seen in live action, the trio's combined time on the field of play might pan out to little less than one full game.

Harrell hasn't proven he can make it through a season without injuring something. Harris has lacked discipline in controlling his weight. McDaniel may be the most physically gifted of the three. At almost 6-foot-7 and 300-pounds he is quite imposing. Despite his size and skills, he is still learning some key fundamentals that could help him make the next step to stardom.

"The biggest thing with Tony is that we've got to get some consistency," Brooks said. "He's got to learn to play with his pads down."

Jesse Mahelona could be a difference maker at one of the tackle positions. At 6-foot-2 and 300-pounds, he has the look that most schools covet. But it's going to take more than just the look‚ to make an impact this season. According to Brooks, it's going to take a little learning as well as getting back into football shape.

"He‚s learning the scheme," Brooks said. "The thing about him is that he hasn't played football in a year. He got hurt in the first game last year. It's been a long time since he's played."

The Vols were hoping they could get a boost from junior Greg Jones and sophomore Matt McGlothlin. Yet, in a year of bad breaks across the front four, Jones is red-shirting because of academic reasons and McGlothlin is suspended through the calendar year.

In order to combat those two problems, Ell Ash and Anthony Parker, a pair of true freshmen, could have a better shot to get in the rotation at tackle.

The most popular remedy up to this point in the season is giving some of the older and heftier defensive ends a chance to prove their worth inside at tackle. It may make sense from a numbers standpoint at tackle, but Brooks doesn‚t want to create a paucity of ends either.

"I think the biggest thing is that you've got to decide what‚s best for the team," Brooks said. "When you talk about (moving) Karlton Neal, Jason Hall, and Turk McBride, that's three of our four best defensive ends."

Both Neal and Hall are probably good enough to start at one end position opposite Parys Haralson. McBride showed flashes of brilliance as a true freshman, too. The question remains, will it pay to move an end to tackle and put a more inexperienced player at end.

Antonio Reynolds is a newcomer who is expected to contribute at end. He‚s bulked up twenty pounds since arriving on campus. Xavier Mitchell could be a factor as well. Jared Hostetter looks the part after his first year in the program.

But as you can probably imagine in this year of unfortunate instances across the defensive line, Hostetter was removed from Wednesday's practice on a cart after an injury knocked him out of the Vols first mini-scrimmage.

Despite all of the unforeseen circumstances occurring so far this season, you can always count on the coaching staff to figure out how best to use its personnel in dreaming up some sort of game plan.

When it comes down to crunch time, there's not a better combination than defensive coordinator John Chavis, defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell, and Brooks.

"Just as long as we get our guys by game week we're fine," Brooks said. "It could be that some guys play end and tackle. We've done that before."


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