KNOXVILLE-Making the switch had been bouncing around in Daniel Hood's head for some time.
The idea got tossed out in meetings the rising third-year sophomore had with his Tennessee position coach and head coach Derek Dooley, but Hood didn't actually go from offensive lineman to defensive tackle until just before the Volunteers started spring practice this week.
"I've always had a little thing where I still wanted to play defense," Hood said after Saturday's practice. "I just feel more comfortable on defense. Offensive line was fun and I love all those guys, but I feel like I'd be able to help our team more at defense."
When the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Hood began his UT career, then-coach Lane Kiffin gave him the option to play tight end or defense. After starting at tight end, he eventually was moved to the offensive line, but he mentioned a switch to defense when Dooley arrived before spring practice a season ago.
After mentioning it to ex-defensive line coach Chuck Smith last season, Hood brought it up again to Dooley in an annual player-coach meeting before the offseason program began.
"He's a big body, which is a starting point, which we don't have [on defense]," Dooley said. "He's playing with good effort and toughness. Now it's just a matter of learning what to do. We feel like he might can give us a little something there."
Hood anchored the middle of Knoxville Catholic's 3-4 defensive scheme in high school. His biggest adjustment is battling in the trenches with bigger bodies, especially on double teams.
"You've got 600-plus pounds against you. You'll pop one of them up and think you're doing good, and another 300 pounds will come and wash you away," he said.
"There's a lot of stuff I've still got to pick up technique-wise. I've been forced to learn everything quick. That's what I'm still trying to do right now is learn our defense and be able to get to where I can play fast without having to think about it and just trigger on stuff."
"Three-stack" is the nickname for Channing Fugate, a rising sophomore who took hold of the starting fullback spot near the end of last season.
The 6-1, 251-pound Fugate earned the nickname because he stacked three 1,000-yard rushing seasons - including a 3,052-yard, 36-touchdown junior campaign - on top of one another at Breathitt County High School in Jackson, Ky.
"I think Channing is going to be an important role player for us on offense," Dooley said. "He can do things that most fullbacks can't. 'Three-stack' has some instinctive running ability that most 250-pound running backs don't have. He's athletic, so he can catch out of the backfield and you can maneuver him between some of these big offensive linemen to get to his [line]backer. We're going to create as much of a role for him as we can."
New guys praised
Dooley praised his six early enrollees for how they've handled their first week of college practices. Marcus Jackson is getting first-team reps at left guard, cornerback Justin Coleman and receiver Vincent Dallas also have made some plays and quarterback Justin Worley has become more integrated.
"The newcomers have done a great job," Dooley said. "None of them have lacked courage. Every one of them, we're real pleased with."