Youth movement

Lane Kiffin promised his freshmen a chance to play this fall but even Tennessee's head coach probably wasn't expecting the youth movement the Vols face due to a rash of injuries.

Game 4 vs. Ohio University saw Tennessee start four true freshmen (receivers Nu'keese Richardson and Marsalis Teague, linebacker Greg King and safety Janzen Jackson) and one redshirt freshman (offensive tackle Aaron Douglas).

Kiffin praised King, who he said "seemed like he was physical in there. He played well last week in the Florida game when we needed and did some good things."

The coach also liked the work of the two freshman wideouts.

"To see those guys making plays was good," Kiffin said. "Unfortunately, Marsalis getting hurt kind of threw off his play."

Richardson wound up catching one pass for 10 yards, Teague one for 9 yards. Richardson also returned one punt 21 yards and four kickoffs 76 yards. King recorded 4 solo tackles, 2 assists and a pass breakup in his starting debut. Jackson added 3 solos, an assist and a fumble recovery. Douglas played most of the snaps at right tackle, performing well except for one holding call in pass protection.

Two more true freshmen saw playing time at tailback. Bryce Brown rushed 13 times for 56 yards. He also caught 2 passes for 60 yards and a touchdown. David Oku caught an 8-yard pass out of the backfield and contributed a 19-yard kickoff return on special teams.

Also seeing action on offense were freshman receiver Zach Rogers and redshirt freshman receiver Rod Wilks, although neither made the stat sheet.

In addition to King and Jackson, Tennessee's youthful defenders in the Ohio game included true freshman linebacker Nigel Mitchell-Thornton (2 solos, 3 assists, 1 hurry), redshirt freshman end Willie Bohannon (2 assists), true freshman safety Darren Myles (1 solo) and true freshman tackle Montori Hughes (1 hurry).

Redshirt freshmen Herman Lathers and Prentiss Waggner saw action at linebacker and safety, respectively, but neither was credited with any statistical contributions.

Mitchell-Thornton may be joining the starting lineup this weekend against Auburn, since first-team middle linebacker Nick Reveiz (knee) and second-teamer Lathers (concussion) were injured last Saturday night. And Hughes' role at defensive tackle is likely to expand as the season continues to tax senior Wes Brown's troubled knees.

Even Kiffin couldn't have envisioned freshmen playing such significant roles this fall. But the head man says he'll play them with no hesitation and no excuses.

"Those guys have got to step up," he said. "That's why we play our freshmen so much at the beginning when they get here. You're going to need them, especially with the depth issues we have and the smaller roster (due to injuries). We're going to need them."

Tennessee certainly needed them in the second half of the Ohio U game, when injuries forced the coaches to shuffle their personnel quite a bit.

"When the game's on the line in the fourth quarter there's four true freshmen out of the 11 guys on defense," Kiffin noted.

With Eric Berry playing nickel back at the time, Jackson and Myles were the safeties. And, with both Reveiz and Lathers sidelined, Mitchell-Thornton and King were filling two of the three linebacker spots.

As Kiffin said: "That's why we play young guys so much early ... so when this happens they're ready."


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