Rising senior Justin Harrell has one of the tackle spots locked up after starting every game in 2005. Turk McBride, a part-time starter in '04, projects to be the other first-teamer, although he missed spring practice due to injury.
Walk-on Matt McGlothlin had a good spring and appears to have entrenched himself as the third tackle.
"Matt McGlothlin has really pushed himself into a position where we're going to be counting on him," head coach Phillip Fulmer said recently. "His play since spring break has been as consistent as anybody on the football team."
McGlothlin, a 6-0, 290-pounder, excels as a run stuffer but is somewhat limited as a pass rusher. Redshirt freshman Dan Williams made some progress during the spring and is being counted on for depth. Vlad Richard and Jared Hostetter have been slowed by injuries.
The X factor in the tackle rotation is Demonte Bolden, a 6-6, 290-pound sophomore who has big-time ability but did not record a tackle in limited backup action as a freshman last fall. Bolden has scarcely begun to scratch his potential, but he showed some flashes in spring practice.
"He kind of made a move," Fulmer said. "Demonte has the ability to be a really good player. There's a maturing process right now that he's going through. He's got to get stronger but I like Demonte."
UT's top three tackles – Harrell, McBride and McGlothlin – are rising seniors who will not be back in 2007. That makes the continued progress of guys like Bolden and Williams absolutely vital.
"When Turk and Justin leave one day who's going to be The Guy?" Fulmer asked. "Since I've been here I've made a commitment to be good in the defensive line. I can't look out there right now and say who the future of the defensive front is. But Demonte could be one of those guys."