Mathis bags four sacks

Tennessee's defensive ends combined for just six sacks in 13 games last fall. One obscure reserve got almost that many by himself in Saturday's first full-scale scrimmage of the preseason.

Andre Mathis, who switched from linebacker to defensive end during preparations for the Outback Bowl last December, recorded four sacks during the game-type workout. He also led all tacklers with seven. That's impressive, even though he was working against second-team offensive tackles.

The first time he entered the lineup Mathis beat Ramone Johnson twice en route to sacks of 10 and seven yards on reserve quarterback Nick Stephens. Moments later, he beat another tackle for another seven-yard sack – his third in a span of nine plays. He came back later in the scrimmage to record a four-yard sack of Stephens.

"I'm happy," he said. "I was used to playing linebacker all the time but they (coaches) wanted to try me at end. I managed to learn all the techniques – how to drive off the ball and pass rush."

Mathis, a 6-2, 260-pound sophomore from Erie, Pa., redshirted in 2005 and played sparingly in 2006, playing in eight games and registering two special-teams tackles. He was best known for a vicious hit on last season's Game 1 opening kickoff that knocked California's first-team tight end out of action for the rest of the evening.

Mathis said the toughest adjustment at end has been taking on blockers at the line of scrimmage, rather than having the opportunity to maneuver around them from a linebacker spot.

"At linebacker I came from a distance, so it was easier," he said. "At end, they (blockers) are right there on you."

Mathis believes he has made great strides since spring. He's hoping to battle Robert Ayers and Wes Brown for playing time at end behind returning starters Xavier Mitchell and Antonio Reynolds.

"When they moved me during bowl practice I was still thinking about linebacker," Mathis admitted. "I learned more in spring ball and now I'm learning more and more and more."

Other defensive leaders were as follows:

Jerod Mayo 6 tackles, 1 sack (-4); Dorian Davis 6 tackles, 1 PBU; Nevin McKenzie 6 tackles; Dan Williams 5 tackles, 4 sacks (-17); Antonio Gaines 3 tackles, 1 sack (-7), 1 interception; Marsalous Johnson 3 tackles, 1 PBU; Robert Ayers 3 tackles, 2 TFL (-7), 1 sack (-6); Rico McCoy 3 tackles; Art Evans 3 tackles; Jonathan Hefney 3 tackles; Chris Walker 3 tackles; Walter Fisher 3 tackles; Demonte Bolden 3 tackles; Eric Berry 2 tackles, 1 interception; Jarod Parrish 2 tackles, 1 PBU; Savion Frazier 2 tackles, 1 TFL (-2); Antonio Reynolds 2 tackles, 1 sack (-7); Ben Martin 2 tackles, 2 PBU; Chase Nelson 2 tackles, 1 sack (-6); DeAngelo Willingham 1 tackle, 1 interception.

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