Linebackers making progress

After a year plagued with injuries Lance Thompson and his linebacker corps are ready for 2010. Go "Inside" to read what the coach had to say about his players and their progress throughout spring practice.

There is little doubt that linebackers coach Lance Thompson may have had the toughest job of any Tennessee coach during the 2009 season.

Tennessee's linebacker corps was plagued with injuries throughout last season. The 2009 campaign saw five different injuries for starting linebackers including two season-ending ACL tears.

"Last year was the first time I have ever had five guys get injured at one position," Thompson said.

The coach said he made some mistakes and learned some lessons from a very tough year.

"I learned a lesson and I'm not going to let it happen again. I am going to make sure they know ahead of the curve," Thompson said.

One way that Thompson is preparing for 2010 is training players to work at multiple positions, so that in case of injury, depth will not be such a major issue as it was in 2009.

"What we are trying to do is cross-train a couple of them, play them at two positions, so if we do have the historical perspective of last season at least we will have some quality depth there," Thompson said.

With linebacker Nick Reveiz coming off ACL surgery Thompson needs immediate depth at middle linebacker. That help is coming in the form of former fullback Austin Johnson.

"I think at middle linebacker Austin Johnson has really stepped it up," Thompson said. "I have been really pleased with Austin, for a guy that hasn't played linebacker here in a couple of years he has done really well. He is definitely going to be a guy that will provide some depth for us next year."

The linebackers may not have had much of an adjustment to the new coaching staff given that their coach hasn't changed, but Thompson himself is dealing with a change of defensive coordinators.

"System-wise I really enjoyed working for Monte (Kiffin), I really miss Monte, but like I said JDub (Justin Wilcox) is a great coach and a great guy and we blend well together," Thompson said.

Thompson says thus far he has been very impressed with Wilcox as a defensive coordinator.

"He listens to everybody, but at the end of the day it's his call and he does a good job," Thompson said. "I have been really impressed with him.

"The number one thing about Justin is he has had tremendous success. You look at Boise State and the way they have played against the big BCS schools and they have beaten a lot of people."

Wilcox and Thompson had Reveiz, LaMarcus Thompson and Daryl Vereen working as the first team during Tuesday's seven-on-seven workouts.

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