Young LBs coming on

It's no secret that Tennessee lost all three starting linebackers from its 2005 defense. Likewise, it's no secret that finding three new starting linebackers for 2006 is the top priority on defense.

So far, that search is going well. The Vols' youthful linebackers are getting better on a day-to-day basis.

"We came light years from the first scrimmage (Aug. 8) to this scrimmage," Jerod Mayo said of last Saturday's workout. "We played a lot faster this time."

The linebackers HAD to. Linebacker coach/defensive coordinator John Chavis announced plans to impose penalty running for each time any linebacker gave less than 100-percent effort.

"They were counting loafs," Mayo recalls. "We had to run extra for every loaf we had, so we were always trying to get to the ball."

Except for senior middle linebacker Marvin Mitchell, Tennessee's linebacking corps is terribly green. Ryan Karl is a junior but has never started a game. Mayo, Ellix Wilson and Adam Myers-White are sophomores. Rico McCoy is a redshirt freshman.

Asked how he would describe the group, Mayo replied: "Young, fast, talented, inexperienced."

These linebackers just might have enough talent to overcome their inexperience. They certainly looked good in last Saturday's scrimmage. Asked where they're making the most improvement, Mayo replied:

"From an effort standpoint, from a mental standpoint, from an adjustment standpoint. The linebacker corps is the young group on the defense but I feel like we've come a long way."

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