Keyon is 'key on' defense

Although he has moved from outside to middle linebacker this year, Vol senior <a target='_new' href=''>Keyon Whiteside</a> appears to be on the verge of a banner season. Following a great spring, he is performing just as impressively in preseason drills.

''You've got to play with no fear ... go hard every play,'' he said. ''When you know what you're doing, you play better with the people around you.''

Middle linebacker isn't exactly new to Whiteside, who played there his first two years at UT. When starting outside linebackers Anthony Sessions and Eric Westmoreland exhausted their eligibility following the 2000 season, Whiteside moved to OLB in 2001 and started 11 of 13 games. Now he's back where he began ... in the middle.

''It's been a pretty easy adjustment,'' he said. ''I didn't have no problem at all. I played Mike (middle) before, so it's worked out pretty good.''

Whiteside played outside at 225 pounds last fall. He's playing middle at 235.

''I've put on about 10 pounds but I still feel fast,'' he said. ''I can still move around.''

Whereas outside linebackers have pass-coverage responsibilities, a middle linebacker is free to concentrate on stuffing the run. That is what Whiteside does best.

''Outside, you have more coverage and blitz,'' he said. ''In the middle, you're more a run-stopper. I feel at home in the middle. I just run to the ball and make plays.''

Since last spring, Whiteside has been making plays like crazy. What has gotten into him?

''I just picked it up,'' he said with a laugh. ''I want to lead the team and try to have a little fun this year.''

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