Gerald Williams a 'backer ... for now

He showed considerable promise last fall at defensive end but Gerald Williams wants to play linebacker, and new Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin is honoring that request ... for now.

Williams, a 6-4, 248-pound rising junior, enrolled at UT last August after one year out of school, one year of prep school and one year of junior college ball. Switched from linebacker to end during the season, he wound up recording 12 tackles, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry. Now he's getting another shot as a 'backer.

"Today he's going to be a linebacker," head coach Lane Kiffin said, mere hours before UT took the field for its first spring practice. "He wants to be a linebacker, and we're going to give him a chance to show us what he can do."

Typically, the scheme utilized by UT defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin features small linebackers with great speed. Physically, Williams does not fit this mold.

"His body structure may end up (putting him) down at end," Lane Kiffin said. "But if he can prove he can play linebacker – where he wants to play – then we'll let him. If there comes a point that there's too many ('backers) in front of him, then he'll put his hand down (at end)."

Tennessee is looking to replace one 2008 starter at end (Robert Ayers) and two 2008 starters at linebacker (Ellix Wilson, Nevin McKenzie).

Leading the end corps is returning starter Wes Brown (6-4, 257), a rising senior. Battling for the berth opposite him are rising juniors Ben Martin (6-3, 239) and Chris Walker (6-3, 232), junior college transfer Rae Sykes (6-2, 255), redshirt freshmen Willie Bohannon (6-2, 230) and Steven Fowlkes (6-4, 229).

Even without Williams, the Vols have plenty of linebackers. The bell cow is Rico McCoy, a 6-1 220-pound senior. He's moving to the strong side after starting the past two years on the weak side.

Bidding for the other two starting jobs are 6-1 221-pound junior LaMarcus Thompson, 6-2 221-pound junior Savion Frazier, 5-10 220-pound junior Nick Reveiz, 6-1 224-pound sophomore Chris Donald, 6-1 223-pound sophomore Josh Hawkins, 6-0 213-pound sophomore Daryl Vereen, 6-1 213-pound redshirt freshman Herman Lathers, 6-0 220-pound redshirt freshman Rodriguez Wilks and 6-0 229-pound mid-term freshman Nigel Mitchell-Thornton.

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