Dwindling Dan

His major is economics, not history, yet one of Tennessee's key football players seems to spend each spring re-enacting The Battle of the Bulge.

Rising senior Dan Williams, the only proven defensive tackle on the Vol roster, has been shedding weight at a steady clip in recent months since showing up for winter workouts at a bulky 327 pounds. That's 30 pounds below what he carried as a bloated true freshman in 2005 but nearly 30 above his ideal playing weight.

Playing at around 310 pounds as a junior last fall, the 6-foot-3 Williams was UT's most productive tackle, recording 48 stops, 8.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and 9 hurries. Still, a decrease in weight could lead to an increase in production this fall.

"Dan's lost a lot of weight," defensive line coach Ed Orgeron said following Thursday's spring practice. "He's bought into our system. Our system is built on quickness, and he's working very hard. I think he can be a very good player but he's got a ways to go, just like everybody else does."

Another bright spot at tackle has been mid-term freshman enrollee Montori Hughes. The 6-4, 312-pounder from Murfreesboro sat out 2008 due to academic issues but has shown very little rust this spring.

"He had a good day today," Orgeron said. "Really, for a freshman he's having a very good spring. He's kind of raw a little bit – hadn't played football in awhile – but I think he can be a very good player. He's just going to have to get better."

All of Tennessee's tackles need to get better, including newly transplanted end Wes Brown. Tackle might be the Vols' weakest position. Still, Orgeron is encouraged.

"I think the guys are progressing well," he said. "They're buying in. They love Monte Kiffin, our defensive coordinator. They really enjoy being coached by Lane Kiffin in our new system. I think they're just doing fantastic."

Tennessee's tackles get a chance to display their progress Saturday afternoon, when the Vols hold their first significant scrimmage of the spring. What will Orgeron be looking for?

"Just making plays, running around and hitting," he said. "Just getting better. We've got a long ways to go. We just need to get better at one thing (each day). They've bought into the system, so we just need to perfect some details."

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