An early look at the UT defensive line

Some young talent along with some veteran talent should help the 2010 Tennessee defensive line unit be a successful one. InsideTennessee.com takes an early look at what to expect going into spring ball - who will contribute early, what veterans are expected to step up and lead. Go "Inside" for the answers.

One thing you can thank the Lane Kiffin regime for is the impressive class of defensive linemen they recruited to Knoxville and the lack of overall numbers at the position.

Unfortunately for Kiffin & Co. two of their most prized defensive line recruits won't be following them to USC.

The strong defensive line class of 2010 is headlined by four-star defensive ends Corey Miller and Jacques Smith.

Miller, a 6-foot-3, 230 pound native of Duncan, S.C., is heralded as a quick defensive end with tremendous athletic ability.

Smith, 6-foot-2, 235 pound end from Ooltewah, Tenn., is ranked in some polls as the best player coming out of Tennessee this year. Experts believe due to his size Smith could serve as an outside linebacker or small defensive end, who like Miller, can be an explosive disruption in SEC backfields.

An additional signed defensive line recruit includes four-star, junior college tackle John Brown.

At the backbone of the returning veterans at Tennessee, there is much to smile about.

Leading the returnees is senior Chris Walker, who played in 12 of 13 games in 2009, collecting five solo sacks, 23 solo tackles, one forced fumble and perhaps most impressive, two interceptions, one of which was returned seven yards for a touchdown against Ohio.

Walker is a disciplined, chiseled veteran who will undoubtedly provide a backbone to the new meat in 2010.

Beside Walker will be fellow veteran and senior Ben Martin, player of 33 games in each of his previous three seasons.

As a junior, Martin played in each game including the bowl, racking up three sacks for a loss of 32 yards total, 20 solo tackles and 18 assists as well as forced two fumbles.

Martin, a 6-foot-3, 240 pound speed rusher, could play an integral role in quickness to compliment Walker's strength.

Another senior that can be a leader on and off the field is Gerald Williams, who has played in 23 games as a Volunteer, including each game of the 2009 season.

Williams contributed 15 tackles, had five quarterback hurries and defended three passes. Although the lineman's numbers are more miniscule than one such as Walker, Williams has extensive experience throughout the last two seasons and can be a solid contributor.

The Vols return two promising sophomores on the defensive line, who could become instant contributors considering their allotted experience in 2009.

Montori Hughes, a 6-foot-4, 315 pound defensive tackle, could return as one of the strongest underclassmen in 2010.

Hughes got playing time in each game last season, an impressive nod for a freshman, accumulating 10 solo tackles, 10 assists, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble.

Rising sophomore Willie Bohannon also played in each of the 13 games in 2009, collecting seven solo tackles, seven assists, two tackles for loss, one sack and a forced fumble.

Further down the depth chart for defensive lineman includes sophomore Steven Fowlkes, senior Chase Nelson and junior Rae Sykes.

Tennessee's defensive lineman for 2010 will be a barrage of faces old and new. If veteran leadership can step in and accommodate the talented players beneath them, this defensive front four could be special this year and for many to come.


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