Vantrell McMillan healthy, ready to battle for time on UTC defensive line

Vantrell McMillan healthy, ready to battle for time on UTC defensive line

August 8th, 2015 by Gene Henley in Sports - College

Injuries limited playing time for UTC defensive lineman Vantrell McMillan during his underclassman seasons, but the redshirt junior is looking forward to making bigger contributions for a unit with a goal of 40 sacks in 2015.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Vantrell McMillan has shown throughout his brief University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football career that he can make things happen when he's on the field.

Now that injuries aren't slowing him down, he could have an opportunity to be on it even more.

The 6-foot-2, 240-pound junior suffered a knee injury in what was his redshirt freshman season in 2013, then re-aggravated the injury last year. He was still able to participate in 10 games on what was a standout defensive line, and his 5.5 tackles for loss ranked seventh on the team despite only receiving spot duty.

"I haven't really played a full season, so I'm looking forward to great things this season," he said after practice Friday, UTC's fifth day of preseason camp. "I'm looking forward to making plays, showing things I wasn't able to show last year, and look forward to something good.

"I've had a lot of rehab, but it was all worth it. I feel good. I feel 100 percent and ready to go. I'm the best I've felt in my career."

The biggest concern for the coaching staff this season has been working on his weight. McMillan definitely passes the eye test, but it's not keeping weight off that McMillan has a problem with, UTC coach Russ Huesman said — it's keeping it on.

"If he ends up at 225 pounds, we'll survive and make him a pass-rush guy, but if he wants to be an every-down player, we need him to get to 240 pounds and stay there," Huesman said. "Vantrell has done a nice job this camp and has always been a fine athlete. He's a dynamic kind of player, and it looks like he's doing the right things, which is a good thing.

"He used to think that he could just get in a stance and go rush somebody, but it's about more than putting his hand in the ground and going nuts. He's grasping that, and he's having a good camp so far."

Like most of the returning linemen, McMillan has benefited from learning under three-time Southern Conference defensive player of the year Davis Tull. McMillan said Friday that he still tries to keep in touch with Tull, who is in preseason camp with the New Orleans Saints.

Where personal goals are concerned, McMillan hopes to contribute 10 sacks towards the defensive line's goal of 40 this year.

"It's been frustrating being injured, but these things take time and it will be worth it at the end. I'm not stressing it," McMillan said. "Now I'm just grinding to get through camp and trying to get through it with my fellow linemen.

"Everything will work out."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.


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