There's no doubting Thomas

Midway through Friday's intra-squad scrimmage at Neyland Stadium Tennessee's depth problem at defensive tackle appeared close to being resolved ... for about three minutes.

Second-team quarterback B. J. Coleman handed the ball to freshman running back Toney Williams, who was decked for a one-yard loss by Victor Thomas.

After completing a pass on the second play of the possession, Coleman was chased out of the pocket by Victor Thomas and forced to throw the ball out of bounds to avoid a sack. On the very next play Coleman was sacked for the only time all day ... by Victor Thomas.

During that one four-play stretch, Thomas registered a tackle for loss, a hurry and a sack. That was noteworthy for a guy who played enough to letter last fall but didn't register a single tackle, hurry or sack in 12 games as a reserve defensive tackle.

Minus starter Demonte Bolden and part-time starter Walter Fisher from 2008, Tennessee's defensive tackle corps is perilously thin this spring. Senior Dan Williams, a returning starter, is the only proven performer. The rest of the cast consists of Thomas, converted ends Wes Brown and Andre Mathis, mid-term freshman enrollee Montori Hughes and junior Chase Nelson, who missed all of '08 with a knee injury.

Brown, though undersized at 6-4 and 257 pounds, appears to be dependable. So does Hughes, despite his youth and inexperience. After Williams, Brown and Hughes, however, the outlook gets a tad bleak. That's why Thomas, a 6-4 286-pound junior from Olive Branch, Miss., could provide a huge lift by routinely playing as efficiently as he did during that three-minute spurt in Friday's scrimmage.

Tennessee's coaches are pushing Thomas to become more consistent. So are his teammates, particularly Dan Williams.

"Vic's been working hard," Williams said. "I talk to him every day. I tell him, 'Vic, it's time for you to make plays. It's YOUR time.'"

Thomas appears to be taking the advice seriously. He seems to be working harder this spring in an effort to win the respect of the defensive coaches.

"He's doing that," Williams said. "I think he's kind of bringing it on himself that he needs to start making more plays and helping this team out. I think right now that he's really trying to come on and show 'em that he's going to help us this fall."

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