Born To The Trenches

If you're 6-foot-2, 293 pounds and your initials are D.L., there's a very good chance you were born to be a defensive lineman. If that athletic extrapolation is accurate, the Vols got exactly what they most needed on Monday.

Only time will tell if Donald Langley, of Germantown, Md., lives up to such lofty expectations, but you've got to love his chances, especially if you're a Tennessee football fan. For sure, you couldn't disprove it from what he's accomplished at Seneca Valley High School.

A four-year starter in the D-line, Langley recorded 46 tackles (27 solo), including 17 for losses with four sacks last season. He also took on a starting job in the offensive line for the first time and merely led the state with 55 pancake blocks.

He has been recruited to play on both sides of the line by college coaches from coast to coast, but he chose UT and the opportunity for early playing time at defensive tackle.

"All three years I have played defensive tackle and defensive end," Langley told James Hale of Sooners Illustrated. "This year I am also playing offensive tackle. I like playing defense a lot more because I love getting to the quarterback and stuffing the run."

Tennessee has a pressing need for someone with such skills, and luckily, Langley has the speed, strength and size to make a smooth transition to the college game. In addition to exceptionally quick feet and lateral mobility, he runs a 4.83 time in the 40. He also boasts a 350-pound bench press and a 575-pound squat. He also turned in an impressive 4.07 clocking in the pro agility drill last summer at Penn State's football camp, putting him among the elite tackle prospects in the country. At the University of Maryland football camp he went up against the state's top offensive line prospect and beat him three times in three plays.

With his reputation for wreaking havoc in the trenches preceding him, Langley hasn't had many one-on-one match-ups as a senior at Seneca Valley. Through five games this year he had 20 solo tackles (five for losses) and 14 quarterback hurries.

"I don't have any sacks yet," he lamented. "A lot of teams are triple-teaming me so my teammates are putting together some good stats, because they are getting blocked one-on-one. I faced a lot of one-on-one's last year with the running back coming up to support the lineman, but this year I am getting triple-teamed. Most teams didn't know much about me last year, but this year I am drawing a lot of attention from two offensive linemen and a running back. I have learned how to deal with it and I am still making a lot of plays."

The only place Langley drew more attention than on high school football fields was on the college recruiting trail. Langley estimates he had no fewer than 45 offers. He visited Tennessee officially for the Florida game and chose the Vols over offers from Maryland, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Penn State, Texas A&M and Virginia.

In addition to the football program, game atmosphere and educational opportunities, Langley credited the east Tennessee climate with being a factor in the Vols favor.

"I just love it there," he said during Monday's news conference. "Also, I feel like I have the best chance to play and make an impact with that program.

"Texas is too hot, Penn State is too cold, Tennessee is just right."

Just right is how Langley fits into UT's future plans for fortifying it's defensive front. As much as he brings to the table physically, it's his competitive nature that defines him as a player and propels him as a prospect.

"It's going to be very competitive no matter where I go," he said before the start of his senior season. "I know for a fact that I can contribute right away. Coaches tell me that by the time I get there I will be able to contribute right away. I've gained 30 pounds since December, plus with my 4.8 speed, I have speed to terrorize the quarterback. I have a motor, I don't stop until the ball is on the ground."

Another advantage Langley has toward earning early playing time at Tennessee is the fact he will graduate next month and enroll at UT in January. That allows him to take part in winter workouts as well as spring practice. Langley was recently named a U.S. Army All-American, and invited to play in the All-American Bowl in San Antonio next January.

Now all Langley needs is permission from Tennessee to play in the nationally televised event.

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