A few minutes later, Karl made a dandy open-field tackle of Ja'Kouri Williams to prevent a first down.
Midway through the scrimmage, Karl became a one-man wrecking crew. On consecutive plays he:
- Sacked Hardegree for an eight-yard loss.
- Tackled Yancey after a one-yard gain.
- Stopped Yancey after a three-yard gain.
At this point, former Vol Dewey Warren – sitting directly behind me in the stands – exclaimed, "That Ryan Karl is all over the derned field."
It certainly seemed that way. Karl finished with six tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and the pass breakup that led to Mitchell's interception. The 6-foot, 215-pounder from Franklin seems to have a knack for being where the football is.
"He's around the ball," head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "He's a pretty salty football player. He's smart, a tough guy who's going to get his tackles in every ball game."
After playing tailback at Battle Ground Academy, Karl spent a few days as a Vol safety in 2004 before moving to outside linebacker. He's still small for the position but he offsets his lack of heft with an abundance of quickness and savvy.
"He knows how to slip blocks as well as anybody I've seen," Fulmer said. "If you're that light in the butt, it's probably a good thing you can get away from those guys."
Karl's greatest attribute, though, may be his hustle. He goes all out all the time.
"Chief (defensive coordinator John Chavis) says if we go out there and go full speed every time, we'll be in the right spot and make big plays," Karl said. "If we don't worry about being wrong – just go full speed all the time and have that nastiness – we'll do what we need to do."
Asked about his uncanny knack for being where the action is, Karl smiled.
"Chief's defense will get you in the right spots," he said. "If you're going full speed and wanting to be around the ball, you're GOING to be around the ball."