Big Brother

Big Brother is watching … literally.

Tennessee's Marvin Mitchell is a big guy (6-3, 245 pounds). He's a Brother. And he's watching over a group of young Vol linebackers who are still wearing diapers in terms of their college development. So far, he seems to be enjoying the baby-sitting duties.

One of those duties is simply reinforcing the lessons defensive coordinator John Chavis has been preaching to the young ‘backers all spring.

"Like a big brother would do, I have to coach ‘em up, give ‘em a little reminder because it's not sticking in their head," said Mitchell, a fifth-year senior from Norfolk, Va. "If they hear it every day they know it. It's just got to stick with ‘em."

Limited by injuries, Mitchell has made just two starts in his first four years on campus. Still, that's more than the Vols' other linebackers combined. Sophomore Jerod Mayo is the only other linebacker who has started at the college level, getting one starting assignment last fall before suffering a season-ending injury.

Despite the lack of experience, Mitchell believes the young linebackers are going to be just fine. They're following his directions and trying hard to become better players.

"They're coming along good," he said. "They're good listeners. They work hard. We just need to grow as a unit because we're so young."

One of the baby ‘backers put on quite a show in last Saturday's scrimmage. That would be redshirt freshman Rico McCoy, who issed the 2005 season with a foot injury but seemed to be all over the field Saturday, registering a scrimmage-high eight tackles.

"That was one of the first times Rico got to cut loose because of his foot injury," Mitchell said. "He got to just go out there and play. Instead of worrying about our scheme or whatever, he just went out and cut loose, like he did in high school."

Sophomores Ellix Wilson and Adam Myers-White also looked really good in last Saturday's intra-squad workout. Mitchell expected no less of them, however.

"Being around those guys and knowing the attitude they showed in the off-season program, I'm not surprised. The way you get better is to come out each day and take a step forward."

Tennessee's defense looked a little shaky in the first full-scale scrimmage of the spring. Since that time, however, it has dominated the offense in every head-to-head confrontation. Mitchell believes UT's defenders simply needed a few days to get their bearings.

"It was just a matter of knocking the rust off," he said. "The first scrimmage I wasn't in some of the gaps I was supposed to be in. By the second scrimmage I had everything fresh in my memory."

Mitchell is the only senior among UT's linebackers. The Vols have two juniors – Ryan Karl and James Turner – but neither has played a whole lot to date. That's what made the progress of the linebacking corps this spring so encouraging.

‘We're growing as a group," Mitchell said.

The linebackers had better continue growing. After all, Big Brother is watching.

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