Shades of Al Wilson

When Tennessee's first-team offense shredded the first-team defense with a five-play, 70-yard touchdown drive to open Saturday's scrimmage, one Vol launched into an Al Wilson impersonation.

Junior end Chris Walker lit into his defensive teammates as they trudged to the sidelines. Screaming loudly enough that his message easily could be heard from the stands, he used some salty language to remind his mates that Tennessee defenses don't get pushed around so easily on Shields-Watkins Field.

It was precisely the kind of assertive action the fiery Wilson became known for during his days as a Vol linebacker in the late 1990s. That's what made Wilson one of the great team leaders in UT history. Perhaps Saturday's tirade was Walker's first step on a similar path.

"I've taken that on myself to be a leader on defense, along with Eric (Berry) and everybody," Walker said. "We were kind of disappointed in the way we played that first series, so we talked about it as a group - getting fired back up. We came out the next series and played really well."

That's true. After stuffing No. 1 tailback Montario Hardesty for no gain on first down at the offense's 1-yard line, the first-team defense dumped him in the end zone for a safety on the very next play.

The spark provided by Walker's verbal explosion was short-lived, however. Spurred by its opening-drive success, the No. 1 offense posted two more long TD marches against the No. 1 defense before the afternoon was complete. Clearly, the offensive guys seized the momentum from the start and never relinquished it.

"Yeah, it's the same way we are on defense," Walker said. "If we get a couple of big hits or stops our confidence builds. If they get a long run or a long pass their confidence builds. After that first series it was really built up. We had to come back and try to level the playing field after that."

Walker grew up in Memphis, not far from Wilson's hometown of Jackson. Except for his hometown and his Saturday outburst, however, the current Vol has little in common with the former Vol. Whereas Wilson was an ultra-intense guy who studiously avoided the press, Walker is an outgoing personality who has become a media darling due to his candor.

Although Tennessee's No. 1 offense exposed and exploited some weaknesses in the No. 1 defense, Walker believes the stop unit made some critical mistakes Saturday that will not be repeated in Scrimmage No. 2.

"We just got cut out of our gaps some," he said. "We got cut on the backside, which gave the running backs lanes to run through. We've just got to get back onto the practice field and work on it."

Otherwise, Walker may spend the next scrimmage working on his Al Wilson impersonation.


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