Massive Memphis mauler

Tennessee's new defensive scheme is built around small, quick tackles, so head coach Lane Kiffin was a bit concerned to learn that his only proven tackle was a 6-3, 320-pound behemoth.

Once Kiffin and his dad – defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin – saw Dan Williams on the practice field, however, they decided they could alter the scheme a bit to accommodate the massive Memphis mauler.

"When you put him and Montori (Hughes) in there – two really big, physical D-tackles – it's a little bit different than what we're used to having," Kiffin said this week. "We were used to being around smaller, quicker guys at USC and Tampa, so we're adjusting that a little bit."

Keeping Dan Williams on the field is crucial, no matter how much Tennessee must adjust its defense. He's clearly the bell cow of the defensive line.

"He's doing good," Lane Kiffin said. "We've actually looked at a couple of different fronts with him, moving him around a little bit. He's been a real force. He's been hard for the offense to deal with."

While Williams is locked in at one tackle, things are not so settled at the other tackle spot. Wes Brown is a 257-pound newly converted defensive end. Hughes is a freshman who has a lot to learn. Tennessee State transfer Minor Bowens does, too. Then there are three guys who have been around for years but have yet to distinguish themselves – Andre Mathis, Chase Nelson and Victor Thomas.

Which of the above will be lined up next to Williams in the 2009 opener Sept. 5 against Western Kentucky is anyone's guess. This much is known, however: The competition will heat up a few degrees Saturday, when the Vols hold a full-scale scrimmage at Neyland Stadium.

"There's always competition," Williams said. "It's good for the team. It's exciting, and we can't wait for Saturday to get here."

Rather than concern himself with the battle for the other tackle spot, Williams is devoting his time and energy to making sure he's ready to play at the top of his game come fall.

"The only thing I can do is go out there, play as hard as I can, try to make as many plays as I can and help out the defense," he said.

Like many of his teammates, Williams appreciates the energy of Tennessee's animated coaching staff.

"Everything's high intensity and full speed," he said. "These coaches have a lot of energy, and we feed off these coaches. Everything has to be quick, fast and in a hurry. Just run to the ball and play with a whole lot of energy. That's what the coaches will look for on Saturday."

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