The 2010 Volunteer linebacker core could be a three-headed senior monster come football time in Tennessee this fall.
The Vols lose their prized weakside linebacker Rico McCoy, the unquestioned leader of the men in the middle for the defense, but return a plethora of experience.
Assuming Nick Reveiz makes a full recovery, the senior blew out his right knee versus Ohio on September 26, veteran leadership could be the story of this year's big orange linebackers.
In just four games for the Vols, Reveiz put up impressive numbers at middle linebacker under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's system, racking up 11 solo tackles, 16 assists and three tackles for loss.
Strongside linebacker LaMarcus Thompson was also a pleasant surprise for the Vols in 2009 as well, playing in 11 of 13 games for Tennessee, a few missed due to injury.
Thompson racked up 25 solo tackles, 10 assists, seven tackles for a loss, one sack and one forced fumble, only one year removed from a sophomore outing in which Thompson had a measly five solo tackles and five assists.
Reveiz and Thompson should go into spring practice as favorites to lead the linebackers, however who follows in the rotation could be a question.>
Rising senior Savion Frazier gained valuable experience in 2009, inheriting the starting middle linebacker role from Nick Reveiz after the senior went down against Ohio.
Unfortunately, Frazier would also be bit by the injury bug, suffering a season-ending knee injury in the game against South Carolina October 31.
In eight games, Frazier accumulated 19 solo tackles, 19 assists, four tackles for loss, one sack and three quarterback hurries.
Frazier's injury opened the doors for another bench player, rising junior Herman Lathers, who filled the middle linebacker position for most of the remainder of the season.
Lathers, who played in each game in 2009 after playing in only one the previous season, picked up 28 solo tackles, 24 assists and two tackles for loss.
The 2010 incoming linebacker class for Tennessee is a lonely one. As of late January, only three-star middle linebacker John Propst of Hoover, Ala. seemed a lock for the Volunteers.
Head Coach Derek Dooley has made a push for junior college outside linebacker Glen Stanley, a four-star hard hitter who is also considering USC as a landing spot.
With the returning veteran experience at linebacker, it might be an acceptable year for a small incoming linebackers' class.
If Reveiz and Thompson offer up the same senior leadership that Rico McCoy offered last year, it could be a special season for the Tennessee defense.