'D' needs three E's

You need three Es to spell defense, and you need three Es to field a reasonably good one in college football these days – experience, energy and effort. The question: Does Tennessee have enough of these qualities?

The Vols' 2006 defense should have decent experience. The five seniors who ended spring practice as first-teamers have a total of 59 starts among them. Tackle Justin Harrell has 22 career starts, safety Antwan Stewart 16, cornerback Jonathan Wade 15, tackle Turk McBride 4 and linebacker Marvin Mitchell 2.

In addition, junior safety Jonathan Hefney has 23 starts.

Beyond those six, however, Tennessee's stop unit will be pretty young.

Flanking Harrell and McBride will be junior end Antonio Reynolds and sophomore end Robert Ayers. Neither has started a game at the collegiate level. Mitchell's fellow linebackers project to be sophomore Jerod Mayo and junior Ryan Karl. Mayo has one career start under his belt, Karl zero. Joining Wade, Stewart and Hefney in the secondary will be junior Inquoris Johnson. He has six career starts.

With a decent amount of experience on hand, the next order of business is making sure Vol defenders have sufficient levels of energy and effort.

"I think bringing energy and staying together as a team is the biggest thing for us," said Mitchell, who finished spring drills as the No. 1 middle linebacker. "We've got a lot of young guys and a few leaders who need to provide energy and 100 percent effort every day. That's what we need to become a good defense."

Based on spring practice, energy and effort seem abundant on the stop unit. So, just how good will the 2006 defense be?

"I think we'll be a pretty good one," Mitchell said. "We'll see."

With the potent offenses of California and Florida showing up in UT's first three games, we'll see in a hurry.

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