McCoy likes linebackers

Tennessee's glaring lack of experience at linebacker has a lot of fans worried. They obviously haven't consulted the one Vol 'backer WITH experience.

That would be Rico McCoy, who has made 27 career starts heading into his senior season. The Vols' second-most experienced linebacker is Nick Reveiz, who has one career start under his belt.

McCoy believes the 5-10, 220-pound former walk-on will be just fine, even though 10 of Reveiz's 18 tackles last fall came on special teams.

"Nick's steady," McCoy said this week. "He's a workhorse."

Maybe. But what about the rest of the linebackers - none of whom has ever started a single college game?

"We've got Savion Frazier," McCoy said, referring to a 6-2, 221-pound junior. "People forget that he played a lot last year. He played the majority of the South Carolina game because I was playing middle (due to Ellix Wilson's injury). Savion also played most of the Alabama game at Will.

"He has plenty of experience. He got like 20 or 30 snaps in the Alabama and South Carolina games. He's got no starts but he's got a lot of experience. He's a guy that's going to play a lot and contribute a lot."

Still, there are concerns about Frazier. He recorded just 18 stops last fall, with 6 of those coming on special teams. And he backs up McCoy, the one PROVEN linebacker the Vols have.

Basically, Tennessee may need breakout years from redshirt freshman Herman Lathers, Reveiz' chief competition at middle linebacker, and junior LaMarcus Thompson, the projected starter at strongside linebacker.

Thompson (6-1, 221) recorded 10 stops in 2007 and 10 more in 2008 but all 20 came on special teams. As for Lathers (6-1, 213), he has never played a snap at the collegiate level. Still, McCoy has confidence in his fellow 'backers.

"Savion, Nick Reveiz, Herman Lathers, LaMarcus Thompson - that's probably going to be the linebacking corps," McCoy said. "All of those guys are going to contribute."

As the only proven linebacker on the Vol roster, however, McCoy understands that he is being counted on to provide big plays, great consistency and superior leadership.

"I've got to do the right thing all the time," he said. "I've got to play ball, set a good example for the young guys."

McCoy is eager to show that he can be a leader. He's also eager to show that Tennessee is a much better program than last fall's 5-7 record suggests.

"Oh, yeah. We're looking forward to this year ... everybody is," he said. "That (5-7 record) is always going to be there in the back of your head but right now it's all about work.

"Work hard.

"Work harder.

"Work some more."

Perhaps, if the Vols work hard enough and long enough, they can overcome a glaring lack of experience at linebacker.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories