KNOXVILLE - The University of Tennessee football program received some good news to start 2013.
Nose tackle Daniel McCullers posted on his Facebook page Tuesday night that he would return for his senior season with the Volunteers.
"I came to UT to give my all and help put Tennessee back on the map," McCullers wrote. "The last year was not the best one but we have all the talent in the world to be GREAT. So with that being said I will be coming back for my senior year. Volnation be patient we gonna be ready."
The 6-foot-8, 360-pound transfer from Georgia Military College won a starting job during preseason training camp, and his role in the Vols' defense grew as the season progressed. He finished his first season at Tennessee with 39 tackles, 5.5 for loss and one sack, and his sheer size and fit as a noseguard in a 3-4 defense rated McCullers as a mid-round pick according to various NFL draft projections.
McCullers had eight-tackle performances against Georgia and South Carolina, and he made six stops, 1.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble against Missouri.
Defensive coordinator John Jancek will take the Vols back to a 4-3 base defense, but the former Georgia assistant said last month his scheme includes the flexibility to be multiple and contains some 3-4 concepts. Though perhaps a better fit in the 3-4, McCullers can be a factor in any scheme due to his size and ability to clog up holes. He played in some four-man fronts this season.
"Part of being a good football coach is also playing to strengths of your current players, and we'll adapt and we'll adjust," new head coach Butch Jones said. "As we move forward, you have to have a combination of size inside and you have to have some edge presence to be able to rush the passer and win your one-on-one matchups on the perimeter of your defense. The SEC is a line-of-scrimmage league.
"It all starts up front with your defensive front, and obviously with your offensive line as well."
Offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James and guard Zach Fulton announced last month they would return to Tennessee for their senior seasons. As expected, Justin Hunter announced on Twitter he'd declared for the NFL draft. Quarterback Tyler Bray and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson are expected to leave for the NFL, but there's been no official word from those two.