"I have seen Chris Lofton's game improve in two ways," Pearl said recently. "First, he has elevated it defensively. He is now conscious of a defensive breakdown, whereas before it would bother him but he would get right back on the offensive end. He understands what this team needs to do (defensively) to take another step."
In addition to upgrading his defensive skills, Lofton is working hard to improve his leadership skills. He will never be a vocal leader but he is trying to exert a positive influence on his teammates in other ways.
"I see Chris being more involved with the team and the team-building and leadership – not so much verbally, but he's been in my office," Pearl said. "He's asked more questions. He's offered to help the other guys. He took a more active role in recruiting than he ever has. He has taken over more."
Soon to begin his fourth year as a starter, Lofton clearly wants to go out with a bang. To ensure that, he is trying to put his thumb print on this squad.
"This is his team," Pearl said. "I always turn it over to the seniors – JaJuan Smith, Jordan Howell and Chris Lofton. This is THEIR team.... You always remember your last year, and that is what I am trying to impress upon those three seniors."
COACHES' ALL-SEC: Lofton was a unanimous selection to the first-team preseason All-SEC team, as selected by league coaches. Vol teammates JaJuan Smith and Tyler Smith were second-team picks.