Pope graces UT defense

He has no clue at defensive tackle but he just might have a future there.

That's Tennessee's Cody Pope in a nutshell. The 6-6, 285-pound freshman from Julian, Calif., came to UT to be an offensive lineman. Instead, he finds himself working as a defensive lineman. How long he stays there depends on how quickly he progresses.

"He's a big guy that can run," Vol defensive tackles coach Dan Brooks said. "He's willing and all of that stuff. He takes coaching well. He wants to work and wants to be a good player. That's the kind of thing you like, so you take a look and see if he can help your team."

In the 1980s and ‘90s the first three days of preseason workouts involved freshmen only. A guy would work on offense in the morning session and defense in the afternoon, or vice versa. This gave the coaches an inkling of which side of the ball he was best suited to play. The NCAA has since eliminated the three freshman-only days, however.

"We don't have that three-day freshman camp now where you can look at all the kids both ways," Brooks said. "There are a number of young guys we're looking at at one position or another, and Cody Pope is one we're looking at."

Asked if he had any early impressions of the latest addition to his tackle corps, Brooks shook his head.

"None at all," the Vol aide said. "He doesn't really have a clue what he's doing in there. We're just hoping to get a week or 10 days and get a feel if you think he can do it. But we don't have a clue yet."

Tennessee hopes to play five defensive tackles this year. Senior Jonathan Mapu and junior Demonte Bolden are solid first-teamers. Junior Walter Fisher, sophomore Dan Williams, sophomore Chase Nelson and redshirt freshman Victor Thomas are also competing, along with mid-term freshman Donald Langley and new freshman William Brimfield.

Williams, a massive 6-3, 310-pounder from Memphis, turned some heads in Saturday's scrimmage, being credited with four sacks by the UT sports information department.

"I don't think he had four sacks," Brooks said, "but I think Dan has really made progress. He's doing some good things. If he can keep his weight down so he's light on his feet he can be a very productive guy for us, I believe."

Minus the top three tackles from 2006 – Justin Harrell, Turk McBride and Matt McGlothlin – Tennessee is looking to rebuild the interior of its defensive front. So far, Brooks is encouraged by the progress of his tackles.

"I think as a group they're playing hard, doing some good things," he said. "We're not where we need to be by any means but they're playing hard, trying to get good pad level and doing some good things. We just need to be more consistent."

OTHER MOVES: Pope isn't the only player getting a look at a new position this week. Freshman Tyler Maples has moved from safety to wide receiver and junior Ramon Foster from right guard to right tackle. Maples caught 56 passes for roughly 1,200 yards and 19 touchdowns at Maryville High last season. Foster, at 6-6 and 325 pounds, has the size and pass-protecting skills to excel at tackle.


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