KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (team release) -- Five days into camp, leaders are starting to emerge for the 2012 Vols. Derek Dooley pointed out several after Tuesday's session.
SENTIMORE SURGES UP DL DEPTH CHART
Redshirt junior defensive lineman Darrington Sentimore has worked his way onto the first-team defensive line after the first few days of practice. The JUCO transfer from Gulf Coast C.C. (and Alabama before that) is weighing in at a fit 280 pounds and said a summer chat with new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri convinced him to improve his conditioning.
"Coach Sunseri sat me down in his office and told me that I wasn't playing like he wanted me to, like he knew that I could play," said Sentimore, who knew Sunseri from their time together at Alabama. "So, I had to go out there and work on it. I knew what it was. It was me not in shape. So, this summer I went out there and busted my tail on the football field to get in shape. Now, Coach Sal is pleased with me."
Sentimore said that being in better shape has made him a better combo defensive lineman - equally effective stopping the run as he is when adjusting to the pass. That versatility has allowed him to pass Steven Fowlkes, who thrives mainly as a pass rusher, for a spot on the first team.
In addition the getting more fit, Sentimore attacks practice with a more aggressive and focused mindset.
"It was very hot out there," he said. "I prayed before I went out there to try to get the heat off my mind and just focus and try to get my other teammates to focus so we can just play hard, so we can compete for a championship."
AYERS SWITCHES SIDES
The Vols knew they were thin at tight end already and a minor knee injury to Mychal Rivera only reinforced that on Tuesday.
In order to lessen that concern, UT pulled from an area of depth when it moved redshirt junior Joseph Ayres over from the defensive line. At 6-3, 273 pounds, Dooley is intrigued by what he could bring to his new position.
"With Rivera out, we are thin at that position," Dooley said. "We have a lot of defensive lineman and we were looking on the board to see us in that area. Just like Justin King, I think Joe Ayers can give us a little value, especially as a bigger, physical guy to help us block."
Ayres will now wear number 88 for the Big Orange.
FULTON FOCUSED ON RUN GAME
Junior offensive lineman Zach Fulton, along with the rest of the Volunteer offensive linemen, have been putting some serious work in this offseason. The line is determined this year to have success, especially in the run game. While talking with the media, Fulton had a big smile on when he discussed how much fun he has had working on run blocking drills in practice.
"I just love working on the run blocking," said Fulton. "It's just something that's fun to do. We stress it each and every single day and we do it consistently, over and over again until we have it.
"The offensive line's progress has been really good so far. We are achieving well in the run game and making positive strides everyday in team run. We are just getting better and better."
The 6-5, 326-pound native of Homewood, Illinois knows how important the offensive line is to an offense. If the offensive line can't establish a presence, the offense does not have much of a chance to even get started or get in a rhythm. The offensive line is the foundation of a good offense.
"The team basically follows the offensive line's play," said Fulton. "For instance if we do bad in practice, it basically means the whole team isn't going to have a good practice. As the offensive line, we have to set the tempo. And we know the whole receiving corps is great. So if we can give Tyler [Bray] the time, we know he is going to get the ball to somebody."
KING KEEPS COMING BACK
Coming back from multiple injuries the past three years he's spent at UT, redshirt junior linebacker Greg King keeps his head up coming into the 2012 season. "It's wonderful being back," said King, who has been felled by knee injuries. "I can look back on [the injuries] now and just use it as momentum. It's been a while since I've been out there, so I'm just taking it one day at a time."
King laughed at how frustrating the injuries have been. "You can't be mad about them," he said. "But, you just have to keep pushing now - with the mental reps and just trying to learn the defense."
King is optimistic about the upcoming season's 3-4 defense. With this defense, he said you can "make plays and open up gaps. There's more room for you to just roam and be a linebacker." With what he's currently focusing on, King said, "right now, I'm just trying to pick up everything, because you never know what might happen and you have to be prepared for whatever comes."
Defensive Coordinator Sal Sunseri has the approval of his defense as well. King said that Sunseri goes after the mindset of his defensive players. "I love his game," King said. "He's an honest coach. He's not scared to bring you out on the field and he loves to have fun out there, but he does mean business."
"We still have a long way to go [before kickoff]," King said. "It's some of both [reviewing old plays and installing new plays], but there's definitely a lot of the new stuff. It's a whole new package with about 30 more schemes. You've got to be prepared, with mental rest, too. You have to watch as much film as you can and become the best players you can be on the field."