Vol leadership outlook

This is the last in a series of articles analyzing each area of Tennessee's 2010 football team. With the positional outlooks complete, today's article takes a look at the vital area of leadership.

You need strong guidance from the crew to keep a ship on course. Likewise, you need strong leadership from the veterans to keep a football team on course.

That's especially true when a team has as many unresolved issues as the 2010 Tennessee Vols. Minus their two best offensive players (Montario Hardesty and Jonathan Crompton) and their two best defensive players (Eric Berry, Dan Williams), the Vols do not project to win a whole lot of games on dynamic performances by proven playmakers. Thus, Tennessee will need excellent leadership to maneuver its way through the minefield known as the SEC regular season.

The obvious question: Do the Vols have suitable leadership for the task at hand? Their first-year head man thinks so.

"It's been good," Derek Dooley said at the conclusion of spring practice. "We have a good senior class. We have some guys who have a little personality about 'em. They have a lot of confidence."

It's difficult to identify the team leaders as this point because many of the veterans must master their roles in the new offensive and defensive schemes before they can go about helping the underclassmen.

"I think the inexperience is what the issue is," Dooley said. "When you're inexperienced, you're so concerned about doing your part."

With five new starters in the offensive line, leadership could be in very short supply there.

"Upfront, we're not going to have a big leader emerge on the offensive line," Dooley said. "But it will (happen) in time."

The Vols also are inexperienced at quarterback, where juco transfer Matt Simms is battling mid-term freshman Tyler Bray.

"I think it's hard on the quarterbacks (to lead without experience)," Dooley said. "But we have some experienced guys like Gerald (Jones) and Denarius (Moore) and Luke (Stocker) on offense and Chris Walker and Nick Reveiz on defense.

"They bring something and they have a good command. I'm not concerned about the leadership. I hope we can keep developing more leaders but I think that comes with giving a lot of ownership to everybody to be a leader."

Walker appears to be a natural leader. The senior defensive end showed some leadership ability last fall, especially after Reveiz suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Game 4.

Walker is ready to lead but he expects plenty of help in that department.

"When I look at leadership, I don't just look at offense or defense, but we have to lead the whole team," he said recently. "The leaders on our team have done that. We are looking forward to taking that role on in the summer."


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