Double-duty Vols

The ability to play two positions essentially doubles a football player's value, which is why former Vol Robert Ayers, who can play defensive tackle or end, was a first-round pick in the recent NFL Draft.

Versatility is just as important at the collegiate level, and the Tennessee Vols are quite fortunate to have several players capable of contributing at multiple positions.

Foremost among them is probably senior Wes Brown. The rugged 6-4, 257-pounder started at defensive end in 2008 but projects to start in 2009 at tackle, the position he switched to during spring practice. Odds are, he'll still see quite a few snaps this fall at end, however.

"He'll play both I think," defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said recently. "Wes is a starter; we just have to decide if he's a starter at tackle or a starter at end. He's very much in the picture (because) he can do both."

Minus two of its top tackles from 2008, Demonte Bolden and Walter Fisher, Tennessee's depth at the position was perilously thin entering spring practice. Brown, though undersized for a tackle, unselfishly agreed to move inside to bolster that depth.

"Some of our ends aren't built quite the same as Wes, so they really are going to be true defensive ends," Kiffin said. "But he can play both, and that helps a lot. You've got to be flexible because you're going to get injuries or one guy isn't playing as well as you thought he would. The fact he can do both will really help."

Although Brown missed a significant portion of spring practice due to a minor knee injury, he seemed to be adapting quickly at tackle during his limited work there.

"Yeah, he did," Kiffin said. "The few days he was in there he did really good."

Another Vol who can contribute at multiple positions is junior Dennis Rogan. He started at cornerback as a sophomore last fall but began working at free safety when 2008 starter Demetrice Morley was dismissed from the team during spring practice.

"Dennis is a little like Wes Brown; he's flexible enough to play corner and safety," Kiffin said. "Dennis is a playmaker. He made some plays last year."

Rogan got off to a rocky start in spring practice, was demoted to second team, then rallied and played quite well.

"He didn't play maybe as well as we wanted him to but we challenged him a little bit and he really came back and responded," Kiffin noted. "We feel good about that."

The Vols also feel good about senior linebacker Rico McCoy. He's a two-year starter at weakside linebacker who got some work in the spring on the strong side. Although a better fit at his original position, he could provide help at strongside 'backer in a pinch.

Another versatile Vol is sophomore Ben Bartholomew. A reserve fullback last fall, the 6-2, 250-pounder exhibited a real knack for tight end during the latter stages of spring practice.

Yet another UT player who can handle multiple positions is sophomore Cody Pope. The 6-6, 288-pounder began spring practice at offensive tackle but looked even more comfortable after moving inside to guard.


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