Maulin' Marvin

There's an old saying in football that you don't have to see good linebacker play; you can HEAR it.

Observers attending Tennessee's first spring scrimmage last Saturday would have to agree. They got an eyeful AND an earful of middle linebacker Marvin Mitchell late in the workout.

Wide receiver Robert Meachem, who packs 218 pounds on a 6-3 frame, caught a short pass and was in the process of turning up-field when Mitchell arrived and lowered the boom. The crunch made by the collision reverberated throughout Neyland Stadium, bringing groans from the spectators.

It was a hit that had to be seen – and heard – to be believed. And it was the kind of hit Marvin Mitchell has been waiting patiently to make. Following a promising sophomore season in 2003, he missed 2004 with a torn MCL, then missed 2005 due to a pair of arthroscopic surgeries on his knee. Now the 6-3, 253-pound senior is hoping to make up for lost time. Most of all, he's hoping to stay healthy.

"You don't know how it feels," he said, shaking his head at the recollection. "When I was injured it was like the whole world was going down. Now I'm back out here and healthy. That gives me a chance to better myself on the field.

"When I was hurt I couldn't do nothing but rehab. Now that I'm healthy again I've been doing extra drops and other things I need to work on."

Blessed with remarkable agility for his size, Mitchell has worked at middle, weak-side and strong-side linebacker during his Vol career.

"I can play all three positions," he said. "But right now I'm going to get everything ready for middle, because that's where I'm going to be when the season starts."

With six starters missing from last year's front seven, Mitchell is one of precious few veterans on a Tennessee defense that is green as grass. That's why he's being counted on for leadership, as well as productivity. He realizes that a talented cast of young linebackers will be watching his every move.

"I just go out there and try to set an example for those guys, work hard at whatever I'm doing," Mitchell said. "I don't want them to look at me and say, ‘Oh, he's not working hard, so I don't have to work hard.'"

No one is questioning Mitchell's work ethic this spring. Just ask Robert Meachem.

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