Easy does it

Given the youthful makeup of Tennessee's defense this spring, perhaps the playbook should read more like a preschool primer:

"See the back run. Run, back, run. See Nick tackle the back. Good tackle, Nick."

OK, maybe that's a ridiculous exaggeration. But the new Vol coaching staff is trying to make things as basic as possible for the fuzzy-cheeked Big Orange defense these days.

"They've simplified some things," senior linebacker Nick Reveiz said. "They've really made things easier."

A year ago Tennessee's defensive alignment generally was based on recognizing the strong side and weak side of the offensive formation. This spring it's based on the position of the ball in relation to the hash marks. You can't get much simpler than that.

"It's a field-and-boundary defense," Reveiz said. "Last year it was off the strength of the formation almost every single time. Now it's based on what hash you're on. That helps the D-line. They don't have to think as much, and those big guys don't need to be thinking much. It makes it easier on us (linebackers), too. I think that helps out everybody."

Vol linebackers need all the help they can get these days because several key ones are either sidelined or limited this spring. Reveiz (5 career starts) and Savion Frazier (4 starts) are rehabbing ACL tears. Herman Lathers (5 starts) and Greg King (2 starts) are missing critical practice reps, as well, due to injuries.

Having so many guys missing at such a crucial position has to be a concern.

"Depth-wise, I think so," Reveiz said. "But a lot of guys got injured during the season, so we're having time to recover. The coaches aren't going to be stupid about putting guys in before they're ready.

"Like Coach (Derek) Dooley said: 'We want you to rehab until you can get back on the field, not WHILE you're on the field.' We want to get everyone back on the field and 100 percent healthy."

Still, watching the contact drills and not being able to participate in them is a struggle for Vol 'backers.

"It's not very fun," Reveiz said. "When they told us we were going to be in red jerseys, me and Greg King and Herman were not very happy about it. We feel a little bit separated. It's something that's going to be hard these practices we have left.

"I'll be in it (red jersey) every day because I can't do any contact the whole spring. It's eating at me but I believe everything happens for a reason and I just want to be prepared by the beginning of September."

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