King ascends

University of Tennessee recruiters landed several highly touted high school football prospects in their 2009 signing class.

Greg King wasn't one of them. Something of a sleeper, the 6-3, 200-pounder from Memphis Melrose was named first-team all-state by just one source (Tennessee Sports Writers Association) and was ranked No. 31 nationally among linebacker prospects by last fall.

Vol coaches saw something they liked, however, and gave him a scholarship last February. They saw even more they liked this preseason, which is why King is listed second-team at strongside linebacker behind junior LaMarcus Thompson heading into Saturday's opener vs. Western Kentucky.

Like his reputation, King's personality is somewhat low-key. When asked his reaction to being on the two-deep depth chart as a mere freshman, he shrugged and replied:

"You got to push hard. There's nothing else. You can't go down. You've got to keep going up."

If Las Vegas had handicapped each Vol freshman's chance to contribute immediately this fall, Greg King's odds probably would've been among the worst in the class. Even he wasn't sure he'd get to play right away.

"I had doubts sometimes because I'm new to it and didn't know the plays," he conceded. "When you just get it, go and run with it, though, it gets easier and it gets better."

After four weeks of preseason workouts, King is glad the season is approaching. Some of the drills got a little tedious.

"We've been through like 100 walk-throughs, so that got us prepared for game situations," he said. "We don't like it but you get prepared for it because that's what time it is and you've got to get ready."

One of nine true freshmen on Tennessee's two-deep depth chart, King believes he and the other rookies got a very fair shake from head coach Lane Kiffin, noting:

"He told us: 'It's up to you. I'm going to give you the shot. You got to take it and run with it. If you get it you get it. If you don't you've got to keep working hard.' He's true to his word. Some of the freshmen just came to play."

Five freshmen are listed either first- or second-team on defense. In addition to King, there's Montori Hughes (co-No. 1 at nose tackle), Mike Edwards (co-No. 1 at left cornerback), Janzen Jackson (co-No. 1 at free safety) and Darren Myles (co-No. 2 at strong safety).

You have to wonder: Are these raw rookies familiar enough with the Vols' new Tampa-2 defense to handle their assignments in it?

"A lot of us are," King said, nodding emphatically as he added: "I'll be ready. I'll be ready."

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