Motivated mauler

Knowing people anticipate greatness can make a guy work harder to meet those expectations. Knowing people anticipate mediocrity, however, can be even more of an incentive.

The latter is the case for Tennessee redshirt freshman Donald Langley.

The 6-2, 285-pound defensive tackle prospect has made dramatic improvement during the Vols' offseason conditioning program The impetus, he says, is the folks who routinely portray Tennessee's front four as being no good.

"When I hear that our D-line is a weakness it just puts it upon me in the weight room," he said. "It makes you want to give it all on that last rep – go 15 yards, instead of 12 yards ... do 11 reps, instead of 10."

Langley isn't alone. He says fellow tackles Demonte Bolden, Dan Williams, Walter Fisher, Chase Nelson and Victor Thomas also draw motivation from their critics.

"We respond to that as a challenge, another obstacle that's been put in our way," Langley said.

The widespread perception is that Tennessee's defensive tackles lack the right mental makeup, as well as SEC-level talent. Langley says nothing could be further from the truth.

"We've got great leadership in Demonte and Walter," he said. "Walter's like my big brother. He's great leadership and great motivation. He always says positive things and gives me positive things to think about."

The most positive thing for Langley to think about these days is the golden opportunity he has to be a key contributor this fall. Bolden, Williams and Fisher have played a lot but the other tackles hardly broke a sweat last fall. Thus, Langley has an excellent shot at being the No. 4 man in the tackle rotation. He understands this but says he feels no pressure.

"It's cool," he said, "but I never really felt that (pressure)."

Langley showed up at Tennessee in the spring of 2007 as a ponderous 305-pounder. Following the advice of defensive line coach Dan Brooks and the lead of strength coach Johnny Long, Langley has dropped 20 pounds and toned up significantly in the past year.

"Johnny and Coach Brooks, I just listen to everything they say and do everything they want me to do," Langley said. "They'll never steer me wrong and they'll never tell me something that wouldn't benefit the team and myself."

Thanks to a streamlined physique and a muddled outlook at tackle, Langley might even work his way into the starting lineup at some point in 2008. He admits being "really excited" about his prospects for this fall.

"I've been thinking about that all offseason, and every time I think about it, there's a smile on my face because I know the kind of opportunity I have ahead of me," he said. "All I have to do is put God first and pray about it, do everything I can to give myself a better opportunity."

If he takes advantage of his opportunity, Langley simultaneously could silence the critics of Tennessee's defensive line. That would be a pretty noteworthy accomplishment.

"I've just got to stay focused and know that I'm here for a reason," he said. "God put this in my path to test me and see how far I can push it."

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