'Backers can play

Minus 2005 starters Kevin Simon, Omar Gaither and Jason Mitchell, along with key backup Jon Poe, Tennessee's linebacker corps is young and unproven this spring.

The departures have some Vol supporters wringing their hands. Marvin Mitchell, a rising senior linebacker, says fans needn't fret. He's convinced there's no cause for alarm.

"We lost three senior starters," Mitchell concedes, "but you can't look at that and say, ‘Oh, what are we going to do now?'

"We've got a lot of good guys. You've got Ryan Karl. Then you've got Jerod Mayo, who started one game last year. We know what he can do. Then you've got some freshmen in there like Rico (McCoy) and Andre (Mathis) that have a lot of athletic ability and keep improving."

Mayo was challenging for a starting job as a true freshman last fall until he was sidelined by a knee injury.

"Jerod's quick," Mitchell said. "That's what we've got around here. We recruit quick linebackers. He has a lot of ability and potential. He's had knee surgery but he's working hard to get ready to play again."

McCoy also showed considerable promise before an injury sidelined him early in preseason drills last August.

"I really haven't seen him practice but two or three days," Mitchell admits, "but he showed me has quickness and heart."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories