ATLANTA -- Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin thinks Luke Stocker will become one of college football's best tight ends next season.
Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster thinks the UT junior already is there.
"He's really one of the most outstanding tight ends, if not one of the better tight ends, if not the best tight end in college football today, in my opinion," Foster said.
The 6-foot-6, 245-pound Stocker has caught 27 passes for 370 yards and six touchdowns this season.
Kiffin thinks Stocker could be an All-American and first-round NFL draft pick next year.
"With Luke, you've got to know where he is," Foster said. "He's their leading receiver, he does a great job getting open and he does a great job with the ball in his hands after the catch. I really think he's one of the premier tight ends in college football today. He's an athletic big man, and he can create some problems.
"They're going to find him. They run the football, and then they slip him through the cracks with the playaction and get him down the field."
Virginia Tech senior defensive end Nekos Brown complimented UT's tight ends and fullbacks for their diverse roles in the offense. Brown also echoed Foster's comments on the Vols' use of setup plays, particularly for play-action passes late in games.
"They really help out their offense a lot," Brown said. "Running that pro-style offense, they come in and chop block, they crack back ... they really make their offense go, really. You sometimes forget about a tight end in the game, and that's why they hit him so late.
"I think they have a really good scheme, and (Stocker is) a big part of it."
Added Foster: "They move their tight ends around a lot. They move them around to block, and they block, block, block, and then all of a sudden they're going to run a little play-action off it ... and they'll hurt you with it."
The Vols would do well to show similar respect for Foster's defense. Virginia Tech hasn't surrendered a second-half point in its past four games.
"We all take pride as a big senior group," Brown said. "We've been together for a long time, and it all goes into how we want to be remembered. Us not giving up points in the second half, that just goes along with us getting to our potential. We always knew we were capable of doing it. It was just a matter of time, really."
The Hokies are ranked 14th nationally in total defense -- and that's actually lower than the past four seasons, all of which finished in the nation's top 10.
"When you watch them on film, they look like an SEC defense," UT senior guard Jacques McClendon said. "What else needs to be said?"
Coaches' 'yard time'
UT offensive coordinator Jim Chaney fired off another of his classic one-liners Tuesday when asked about the coaches' most enjoyable part of bowl week.
"Our fun part for coaches is practice," Chaney said. "We call it 'yard time.' We get out of prison and get to go out to the yard and have some fun, so it's a good time. We do have a good time with that on the football field.
"There are obviously some bowl functions to go to, and last night was a good time. We got to cut loose a little bit. You've got to stop and smell the roses a little bit. It's such a serious business right now to try to be successful and keep everybody happy at the same time, so once in a while you've got to relax and have some fun. We try and fit that in, too."
Chaney also poked fun at Kiffin's Monday goal of simplifying UT's offensive game plan, because coaches got a little overzealous with extra time between games.
"He didn't listen to himself," Chaney said with his typical grin.
Chaney quickly added that UT had made some simpler adjustments.
"I look back on some notes when we made ourselves bowl-eligible and some of the things (I) did prior to going to the NFL," Chaney said. "Some of my notes from my Purdue days said, 'Slow down. Don't put too much stuff in,'" Chaney said. "You've got a tremendous amount of time on your hands, but I think we've done a pretty good job of putting some parameters on ourselves so we don't get too crazy. You do have to watch that. There's no question we could fall victim to that with the time that we do have.
"You're used to a regular game week where you have time restraints on those issues. We don't know yet, but I think we've done a fair job with that."
Berry red light?
Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring joked about calling UT's coaches with an idea to help the Hokies combat Vols All-America safety Eric Berry.
"We've asked Tennessee to put a little red light on Eric Berry so we'll know where he is, but they haven't gotten back to us yet," Stinespring said.
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