When a program has the moniker of being the only one in the country to carry a particular trait, that tends to be a good thing.
In this sense, it’s not.
“I think when you look at it, we are the only team in the country that has to replace both the starting offensive and defensive lines,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said at Thursday’s press conference on the eve of training camp. “So that is very unusual. Quite frankly that is the reality when you are rebuilding a program. It is something we all knew coming here. I think of it as a tremendous opportunity.”
Graduated following the 2013 season were defensive linemen Maurice Couch, Daniel Hood, Daniel McCullers, Corey Miller, Jacques Smith and Marlon Walls. Also no longer with the program are Malik Brown, Jason Carr and Greg Clark.
In what’s commonly known as a line-of-scrimmage league, that’s a tall task for a program attempting to climb out of the cellar of the Southeastern Conference. The Volunteers are owners of four consecutive seven-loss seasons and haven’t reached a bowl since former coach Derek Dooley’s first season in 2010 when the Big Orange fell in double overtime to North Carolina at the Music City Bowl.
Who’s going to step up? It’s a laundry list of possibilities and many expect redshirt junior Curt Maggitt to wreak havoc at defensive end when his hand is on the ground. However, the pick to click could very well be sophomore Corey Vereen.
The work ethic of the 6-foot-2, 253-pounder out of Winter Garden, Fla., has drawn praise from the second he enrolled on Rocky Top in January 2013.
“There are a lot of good storylines of individuals that have worked exceptionally hard,” Jones said.
The D-end is a prime example of what could be for the 2014 Vols. His strength levels and raw athleticism are both more than ample enough to be productive. Yet, he doesn’t have a start to his name and a preseason injury caused him to miss the first three games last fall.
Vereen may well be a microcosm of where the program is. He could have an All-SEC type season as a front-line end but has played just nine college football games with 13 tackles and one sack.
That one sack came on third-and-six late in the third quarter with Tennessee trailing Georgia by a touchdown. It was a major play as the Vols tied the game less than 5 minutes later and nearly pulled off the upset of the then-No. 6 Bulldogs.
If Vereen can build off his experience as a true freshman, then he could be that edge rusher Tennessee’s pass defense greatly needs.
See more about the Big Orange defensive front, including what true freshmen may contribute and what lies ahead of that group by watching the InsideTennessee video below:
Curt Maggit video interview
Corey Vereen video interview
Discuss why Vereen has such lofty expectations with InsideTennessee analysts and subscribers by clicking here.