Ben Martin injured

Tennessee's deepest position may not be quite as deep tomorrow as it was yesterday.

Senior defensive end Ben Martin left the practice field on crutches Thursday, although the nature and extent of his injury is not yet known.

"He went down today; we'll see if it's serious or not," head coach Derek Dooley said after an afternoon thunderstorm forced the Vols to work out inside the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex.

Martin started 11 games at end last season but missed spring practice due to injury and took part in just one fall workout this week prior to being injured again.

"I've never seen Ben since I got here," Dooley said. "He didn't go through any snaps in the spring, so he's been kind of a mystery to me. He hasn't been 100 percent since I got here."

The first-year Vol coach said he thinks Martin may have suffered an Achilles injury, although an official diagnosis by UT trainers is still pending.

On a positive note, if the Vols had to lose a player - short-term or long-term - defensive end is probably the place such a loss would be least disruptive. The Big Orange is absolutely loaded on the flanks.

Chris Walker started 12 of 13 games at end last season and is a preseason All-SEC pick. Fellow senior Gerald Williams started two games last fall and has shown flashes of great potential. Sophomore Willie Bohannon started a game last season, and probably the Vols' top two incoming freshmen - Jacques Smith and Corey Miller - are defensive ends. Southern Cal transfer Malik Jackson further fortifies the position.

"We have a lot of ends," Dooley conceded. "We've got some pretty good bodies up there, and bringing Malik in certainly helps."

If Martin is unable to answer the bell for Game 1, Williams looms as the likely replacement. The 6-3, 250-pounder from Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., was termed "unblockable" by head coach Lane Kiffin last August but lost his starting job two games into the 2009 season and never regained it.

"I got a little tweak in my knee last season," he said. "But I feel 100 percent right now and I'm going to get back to my game."

That would be helpful, especially if Martin is out for an extended period of time.

"I've got to step up more," Williams said. "We've got guys that can fill in but we're going to keep him in our prayers. Hopefully, he'll be back but, on my end, I've got to keep pushing on."

The rugged senior believes he benefited greatly from last season's starting assignments.

"It helped with the experience of knowing what the game brings," he said, "and knowing how you've got to approach the game and handle your business each and every down."

Williams showed great pass-rushing potential in preseason scrimmages last August but did not record a sack during the regular season. He expects to remedy that situation this fall.

"I feel I've improved my pass rush a lot since last year but I've still got a lot to learn," he said. "I've got a great (position) coach in Chuck Smith and he's going to teach me to be the best I can be."

Asked what he has learned from Smith, who excelled as a pass rusher at UT and in the NFL, Williams replied: "Just to keep going. It's all about keeping your eyes on your work."

Williams lacks Martin's experience but brings an aggressive nature to the defensive end spot.

"I feel like I bring intensity and toughness to the team," he said. "We all have our different roles. I'm a head-hunter and I'm just going to keep leading the guys to the best of my ability."

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