Mayo's a monster

He was all over the field in Tuesday night's scrimmage, which probably guarantees he'll be on the field a lot in Tennessee's Sept. 3 season opener.

Redshirt freshman Jerod Mayo, Tennessee's No. 2 weakside linebacker, was probably the most impressive player on the field in UT's final preseason dress rehearsal.

The 6-2, 222-pounder finished with seven stops, including three sacks and another tackle for loss. Some of the hits were memorable, even though this scrimmage was conducted under "thud" rules that prohibit taking a ball-carrier to the ground.

So, how do you keep a guy like that off the field?

"It will be hard," head coach Phillip Fulmer said, grinning broadly. "It will be REALLY hard. He's pushing. Marvin Mitchell (middle linebacker who chipped in 5 tackles, 1 sack and 1 tackle for loss) is pushing.

"Right now I'd look at both of those guys as guys who'll play a lot for us. They're showing up everywhere."

Tennessee has a glut at linebacker. Kevin Simon, who also recorded seven tackles Tuesday night, is the starter in the middle, flanked by fellow seniors Jason Mitchell and Omar Gaither. Mayo, Marvin Mitchell and Ryan Karl have looked just as good in their backup roles. With so many talented ‘backers available, Tennessee's defense has a chance to put an awful lot of pressure on opposing offenses.

"We've always been a pressure team," Fulmer noted. "But we also need good balance. We've gotten our hands on more balls (pass breakups) this preseason, and a lot of it's because we're playing darned good zone and bringing four guys. That's probably been the best thing we've done."

Defensive coordinator John Chavis loves to play aggressively up front and leave the defensive backs to fend for themselves. Fulmer seems inclined to play a little more conservatively upfront and a little more zone coverage in the secondary.

"With pressure, you'll get big plays and sacks and stuff," the head man said, "but that's where you're going to give up some big plays, too."


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