Can't wait to participate

He's normally a good-natured guy. But one development this spring has Tennessee's premier defensive end seeing red.

That would be his jersey. Slowed by minor back and ankle problems, senior end Chris Walker is outfitted in a red top this spring, signifying that he is available for limited duty only.

As one of the Vols' more aggressive players, the 6-3, 241-pound Memphis native wants to be sacking quarterbacks and dropping ball-carriers these days. Instead, he's doing some light drill work and waiting eagerly for the day he's cleared to go full speed.

"I feel all right," he said this week. "It's something I have to go through but I feel all right. It's the same old stuff (he went though last fall), but my trainers are going to do a great job getting me back. I should be out here soon. I don't want to miss the spring because this is the most important time for me."

Because of his undersized frame and his hard-nosed approach, Walker has sustained an assortment of injuries as a Vol. Battling them again this spring is nothing new but it's still a bit annoying.

"It's a little frustrating but it's come to be a thing for me," he said wistfully. "College football isn't for everybody. It beats you up a little bit but you have to manage your body, and that's what my training staff is doing for me."

Walker needs to get some practice repetitions because first-year defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is installing a new scheme this spring. Walker believes he and the other Vols will pick it up quickly, just as they did the scheme Monte Kiffin installed last spring.

"I don't think it took very long with Kiffin just because there are a bunch of smart guys on our side of the football," Walker said, "and I think it's going to be the same way here. We've been through it (change in scheme) one time, so we know the learning curve is going to be kind of tight. We're excited about it, and we've already got a lot of stuff learned."

Based on what he has seen thus far, Walker believes the 2010 scheme won't be substantially different than the 2009 scheme.

"A bunch of the stuff carries over," he said. "It's the same except in what we call it. There's a lot of stuff from this scheme and the last scheme that are 'same as.'"

Minus starters Dan Williams and Wes Brown from the 2009 team, Tennessee will be painfully inexperienced at defensive tackle this fall. That could put more responsibility - and pressure - on Walker and fellow end Ben Martin.

"I don't think so," Walker said. "I think the guys (tackles) are going to be ready. There's a lot of emphasis that we don't have any D-tackles but I'm comfortable with Marlon (Walls) and Chase (Nelson), with Montori (Hughes) especially, and what they can get done."

Since superstar safety Eric Berry elected to bypass his senior year in favor of the NFL Draft, Walker is the most experienced and talented player on Tennessee's stop unit. Does he consider this to be "his" defense?

"I think it's my defense," he said. "I also think it's Nick Reveiz' defense. We have a lot of guys that have stepped up to be leaders in this thing. It's going to take all of us to do it."


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