"Matt McGlothlin has grown up considerably," head coach Phillip Fulmer said recently. "Right now he's doing really well. He's battling to be a starting defensive tackle."
Largely unrecruited coming out of high school in Richlands, Va., McGlothlin spent a short time at Hargrave Military Academy, then walked on at UT in 2002. He redshirted that year but saw significant action in 2003, even starting two games. He was awarded a scholarship for 2004 but dismissed from the team – reportedly due to a positive steroid test – before he could utilize it.
McGlothlin rejoined the team in 2005 but as a walk-on. He performed well as a backup, then looked so good in spring practice that the coaches recently placed him back on scholarship.
"It feels good," McGlothin says. "I feel like they trust me again. When they gave me my scholarship back I was thrilled. Definitely."
After engaging in some wild antics during his first couple of years at UT, McGlothlin seems to have matured considerably.
"It's just a whole change in attitude, doing what I'm supposed to do – making sure I'm at every class, doing my homework, giving my best on the football field every day," he says.
Tennessee lost two of its top 2005 defensive tackles when starter Jesse Mahelona exhausted his eligibility and junior Tony McDaniel declared for the '06 NFL Draft. That increased McGlothlin's chances of earning playing time at tackle but he says that was not a motivation for him.
"I didn't think of it that way," he says. "I just went out every day and tried to work as hard as I could. I figured if it's meant to be it's meant to be. That's the mindset I had."
That mindset worked. He performed so well that UT coaches felt comfortable moving Turk McBride to end and inserting McGlothlin into the tackle slot formerly filled by McBride.
"I had a really good spring, and they've got me starting along with Justin (Harrell) and Turk moved to end," McGlothlin notes. "But that could change day to day, so we don't really know where we're at."