KNOXVILLE -- When senior linebacker Rico McCoy paints a metaphorical image of Tennessee defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, he leaves the impression of hard-nosed construction foreman.
To hear McCoy tell it, Kiffin simply shows up every day, clocks in, takes whatever he has around him and works hard enough to make it look better at the end of the day. He doesn't waste time complaining about circumstances or worrying about what he can't control.
"And that's why he's a legend," McCoy said.
It's again time for Kiffin to do more with less. Several sources confirmed Monday that junior middle linebacker Savion Frazier -- who took the starting position just last month, when Nick Reveiz tore an ACL -- suffered the same injury in Saturday night's win over South Carolina.
Coaches were hopeful Sunday that Frazier's injury wasn't as bad as initially feared Saturday night, but the mood came full circle after a final diagnosis.
The Volunteers don't practice on Mondays and weren't made available for comment, but linebackers coach Lance Thompson said Sunday night that he'd already started preparing for the worst possible news about Frazier.
"You just move guys up," Thompson said. "That's why everybody needs to be working hard. We practice everybody like they're one play away. Unfortunately for us, that's happened three times with linebackers."
"It's a physical game, and when you play fast you're going to have some contact speed and some hits, and kids are going to get hurt. Now we've got a couple of other situations, and we've just got to put the best guys in there and get them ready and go see what happens."
Redshirt freshman Herman Lathers figures to move up to first-team status this week, but Lathers recently disclosed his own health problems. He was diagnosed with a blood disorder before last season, and he requires multiple platelet count tests every week to get cleared to play.
Lathers -- arguably the team's most talented linebacker and a possible first-round NFL draft pick at some point, according to head coach Lane Kiffin -- said Sunday night he would be ready if Frazier couldn't play.
"Honestly, I take every week as it comes," said Lathers, who battled Reveiz for the starting job in preseason camp until missing two weeks with a concussion. He suffered a second concussion against Ohio.
"Injuries and stuff are going to happen, so you've always got to be prepared," Lathers continued. "I'm ready to take this and run with it, if that's what we do."
The Vols have other options, but not many, especially since starting strongsider LaMarcus Thompson is battling a neck stinger. True freshman Nigel Mitchell-Thornton played in the second half against Ohio after Reveiz and Lathers went down. McCoy, the Southeastern Conference's second-leading tackler, could move from the weakside to the middle in a pinch, but Frazier was the only other Vol with any significant weakside experience.
"I think when a guy like Nick got hurt early in the season, that was a big eye-opener for everybody, because we had to move a guy from another position," Thompson said. "You don't necessarily just go to the next guy at that position. You put in the next best player. You saw that Saturday. When Rico got nicked up for a bit, we put Herman in at Mike and moved Fraze back to Will.
"When you lose a couple of your starters, you're playing guys that haven't had a lot of experience, so it's critical for them to pay attention and get as many mental reps as possible. Now, unfortunately, they're going to get the physical reps, too, so they've got their work cut out for them. We've all got our work cut out for us, but hey, that's what the game's about. It's about opportunity."
The surging Vols (4-4) host instate rival Memphis (2-6). Thompson insisted that the Tigers, regardless of their record, can give UT problems with their system and skill-position talent.
McCoy said the Vols will simply follow Monte Kiffin's example, as they've done all season. Once Frazier adjusted to the middle, they went nearly 11 full quarters against Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina without conceding an offensive touchdown.
"Nobody wants to keep losing guys, but we can't control that stuff," McCoy said. "The good news is that even though guys keep going down, other guys are stepping up and getting in there and getting it done.
"We've got great coaches, and we work hard, so we'll just keep doing what we can with the guys we've got on the field. That's all you can do, really."
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