KNOXVILLE - Tennessee's defense walked off the Neyland Stadium field last Saturday as the clear losers of the second scrimmage of spring.
"They got popped pretty good back there," UT coach Derek Dooley reiterated after Tuesday's practice. "There were a lot of big plays and a lot of yards. I didn't feel like they played with the physicality that they played with the first scrimmage, and that was the difference. It was a different level of physicality on one side of the ball than the other - same thing it was in the first scrimmage."
The Volunteers' defense lost more than the scrimmage.
UT was short three more linebackers at Tuesday's practice because of injuries to Austin Johnson, Greg King and John Propst. Reserves Shane Reveiz and Nigel Mitchell-Thornton moved to the first team alongside Daryl Vereen.
"Austin has a sprained knee. He's OK, but he didn't practice," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "Greg King has a mild concussion. We ran him around [in a noncontact red jersey] but we didn't hit him. He should be back."
Propst has a hamstring injury and didn't practice at all Tuesday.
"I'm still doing some research on how when you're not fast you can pull a hamstring, because I hadn't figured it out yet," Dooley quipped. "The hamstring pull is for big long strides. You're moving, your body is moving faster than it can handle."
Propst and Johnson were working with the first team most of spring, and Herman Lathers, arguably the Vols' best linebacker, has missed all spring following offseason shoulder surgery. Reveiz, whose older brother Nick was an important leader and the top tackler for the Vols, made a team-high nine tackles in Saturday's scrimmage, much to his own surprise.
"Nick was the one that told me about the nine tackles," Shane said. "I had no clue. It's another opportunity, really. Being a walk-on, you've always got to wait for your opportunity, and when it comes you've got to capitalize."
Dooley said he wasn't sure which, if any, of the injured linebackers will play in Saturday's Orange and White Game.
Old Man Brewer
Though he's just a sophomore, Brent Brewer might be one of the Vols' most mature players physically. The 23-year-old safety spent four years playing minor league baseball out of high school and would be two years out of college had he originally stuck with football.
"It's a big difference," Dooley said. "A big difference emotionally. It's a big difference physically. It's a big difference of understanding how tough things are."
Despite a five-week offseason suspension after an arrest on a domestic assault charge that was later reduced, Brewer has performed well this spring, developing a reputation as a big hitter while building on a strong finish to last season. He took over as a starter in October
"I think he is the most improved player this spring. I think he deserves that award," said safety Prentiss Waggner. "He's become fearless out there. Nobody wants a piece of Brent out there."
Said Dooley: "Been incredibly impressed with him, but not surprised. Expecting him to do exactly what he's doing. He's gotten better every day. He's got a great attitude, and we're expecting big things from him."
This and that
Waggner, still wearing a club on the left hand he said Tuesday was not broken, was named to the Lott IMPACT Trophy Award Watch List released Tuesday. The award honors the top collegiate defensive player in the nation.
As they did last spring, the Vols will draft teams for Saturday's Orange and White Game tonight.