UT's tenacious tackle trio

Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams must think he's stumbled into the wrong huddle this spring. The tackles he finds lined up next to him in practice each day are all newcomers.

Montori Hughes is a mid-term freshman enrollee who is participating in his first spring practice with the Vols. Minor Bowens is a junior transfer from Tennessee State who also is in his first spring practice with the Vols. The other guy getting first-team repetitions at tackle is Wes Brown. He's a senior in his fourth spring with the Vols but his first at tackle after previously playing end.

Hughes, Bowens and Brown have performed so well this spring that they're all running ahead of UT's 2008 returnees. Andre Mathis, Chase Nelson and Victor Thomas have been relegated to second- and third-team practice repetitions, and Donald Langley has been switched to offensive guard.

Brown, a 6-4, 257-pounder, is proving to be a good fit for a Vol defensive scheme that depends heavily on quickness at the tackle spots.

"Wes Brown is doing good, especially for a guy who's only been there for about a week," Williams said. "He uses his hands good and he has good quickness. He's getting off the ball and gets off blocks real well.

"Wes has always been a hard worker and he's a fifth-year senior, like myself, so he knows how to work. He wants to do anything and everything to help the team win. The guy is a leader for this group."

Hughes has been the biggest surprise of spring camp in more ways than one. The 6-4 312-pound freshman has impressed onlookers with both his size and his equally imposing talent.

"Montori is looking real good for a freshman," Williams said, shaking his head in amazement. "He's got a good attitude and he's willing to work every week. Some of the things he does makes you say, 'Wow! This kid's just a freshman but he looks like a grown man.

"Montori's doing a lot of good things. He still makes a little bit of freshman mistakes but he's going to be a good player for this fall. He has a lot of natural ability."

Bowens, a 6-3, 293-pounder, is a stranger to UT football but no stranger to Williams. Their high school careers back in Memphis overlapped a bit.

"Minor is doing good," Williams said. "He's quiet but when Coach (Ed) Orgeron gives him a chance he makes the most of his opportunity. He's making plays for the team, working hard in the weight room and going hard every day.

"I know Minor personally. We're both from Memphis and I know how Minor played in high school, so I think he'll be a good player for us this fall."

If Dan Williams is correct about fellow tackles Brown, Hughes and Bowens, the position many UT fans view as a glaring weakness could turn out to be a lot stronger than expected.

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