KNOXVILLE -- Tauren Poole tries not to worry about the depth chart, but the Tennessee sophomore couldn't help but notice his reward for a string of impressive performances in spring practice and preseason camp: fourth place.

And two of the three players above him are true freshmen, Bryce Brown and David Oku.

"There's a lot of motivation, because ever since (Brown and Oku) came, that's kind of put me on the back burner," Poole said after Monday's practice. "But I just take it as it is every day and just work."

Poole, who sat out Monday's practice after sustaining a slight concussion Saturday, has piled up impressive statistics all camp -- especially in the major scrimmages -- and his ball security has greatly improved since spring. He couldn't explain his depth-chart dilemma but wasn't in a white-flag mood.

"I really didn't put too much thought into it, because I'm just going to come out here and work hard every day," said Poole, who also has been slowed by a nagging knee nick. "But for the most part, I never take notice of stuff like that. It may be true. It may not be true. All I can do is worry about me and not worry about anybody else.

"It's been (competitive) the whole time, ever since Bryce and Oku got here. We all knew it was going to be like that, and it's been healthy competition. It makes each and every one of us better each and every day, and I think it's a great thing for the team."

First-year coach Lane Kiffin said he hopes to see Poole back "as soon as possible." Poole hopes to be cleared today.

Poole said the long-term running back situation will be sorted out on Saturdays. Kiffin has said several times it will be hard to rotate four tailbacks, but Poole plans to do the most he can in his playing time.

"Coaches have emphasized a lot that the more you produce, the more you play," Poole said. "I kind of take that into effect when I go out there on the field, and I just say, 'I have to keep producing and stay on the field.' I think that's the atmosphere they're trying to create over here."

Lathered up

Redshirt freshman Herman Lathers probably missed too much preseason camp time to make a legitimate run at junior Nick Reveiz's starting position, but Lathers was 100 percent cleared last week from the undisclosed ailment and said he's ready to compete.

"It was frustrating to not be able to get in there and compete for about two weeks," said Lathers, a 6-foot-1, 215-pounder from Louisiana who might have played some last year if not for a midseason tonsillectomy. "It's been a little shaky, but I've just got to get back into the swing of things.

"It wasn't really too long of a layoff, and while I was out, I was getting mental reps as well. I just picked up where I left off. They picked up some new stuff, but I've been right there with them in the meeting rooms and everything to get the new stuff, too."

Lathers, who Kiffin has said could be the most talented linebacker on UT's roster, said mastering the middle linebacker's lengthy pre-snap check list has been his biggest hurdle. The "Mike" often aligns the entire defense.

"It's a lot, but it's nothing I can't handle," Lathers said. "I have confidence in myself, and I know I can get it down."

The Wyoming way

At least one member of Western Kentucky's coaching staff has tasted Neyland Stadium success.

Hilltoppers quarterbacks coach Bob Cole was Wyoming's offensive coordinator when the Cowboys upset the Vols 13-7 in Knoxville last season.

Wyoming's defense provided most of the punch in that stunning November upset, but WKU coach David Elson could cite Cole as a reason to believe.

"I think what we always try to do is look for examples of other people that have had a chance to be successful," Elson said Monday morning. "In games like this, we're playing an upper-echelon SEC team, and we're definitely the underdog.

"Definitely the Wyoming experience is one we can pull from, but there's a lot of others out there as well."

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