The play in question occurred early in the second quarter, when Bulldog quarterback Matthew Stafford flipped a pass in the left flat to Tony Wilson. Just as Wilson appeared ready to turn upfield for a significant gain he was dragged down from behind for no gain ... by a hustling Vol defensive tackle named Demonte Bolden. Two plays later, Tennessee blocked a punt to set up its third touchdown en route to a 35-14 romp.
Although Bolden's hustle was impressive, even more so was the quickness the 6-6, 290-pound junior exhibited on the play. He finished the game with 4 solo tackles, more than any other Vol lineman.
“He's just playing at a real high quality now,” defensive coordinator John Chavis said this week. “We saw some of that in him early. He's learned how to practice, he's learned how to prepare and he's learned how to play with excitement.
“He's playing at a tremendous level right now. That's a big plus for us and a big plus for him.”
Bolden's development into a top-notch tackle is owed in part to Dan Brooks, the defensive line coach who fine-tuned such quality tackles as John Henderson, Albert Haynesworth, Darwin Walker, Rashad Moore, Jesse Mahelona and Justin Harrell. Perhaps Bolden is destined to join that elite list.
“Dan Brooks has done a tremendous job in terms of getting people ready,” Chavis said. “Just look at the people he's coached. Demonte always had the talent, and he's playing up to that level.”
Bolden wasn't the only Vol defensive lineman who played exceptionally well vs. Georgia. Fellow tackle J.T. Mapu was excellent, as were starting ends Xavier Mitchell and Antonio Reynolds.
These are the same guys who played horribly against Cal in Game 1 and against Florida in Game 3. So what happened to elevate their play so dramatically?
“It was pad leverage and getting off blocks,” head coach Phillip Fulmer said. “There wasn't a day or period last week that wasn't geared to getting that where it needed to be. That had to happen. You can't be married to blocks and make tackles.”