There are four good reasons for Tennessee safety Eric Berry to play exclusively on defense in 2008…
The second L stands for lifters, which is what he's been producing the past few weeks.
The third L stands for leaders, which is a by-product of Long's work with the lifters.
A few players separate themselves each summer with their dedication to the offseason conditioning program. Often as not, the best players prove to be the best workers; it's a simple cause-and-effect relationship. That's why it's hardly a surprise which player Long mentioned first when asked which Vols have made the greatest strides in the offseason program.
"Eric Berry is probably one of the most exciting guys around and, obviously, everybody's very excited to have him," Long said of UT's superstar sophomore safety. "But if you look at what he's done – adding probably 15 pounds of lean muscle mass – he's right at 208 or 210 now and he's really worked hard."
The guy who projects to be the bell cow of Tennessee's front four has had an excellent summer in the weight room, as well.
"Robert Ayers has done a great job," Long said of the senior defensive end, "and continues to work hard throughout the offseason."
Given UT's shortage of quality and quantity at defensive tackle, 6-2, 285-pound redshirt freshman Donald Langley is a player the Vols desperately need to make a move. Long thinks he is making it this summer.
"Donald Langley (is) probably is one of my most improved lifters of the year," the strength coach said. "It's exciting to see a young guy make a push. Obviously, he still has to play. Obviously, lifting weights and playing football are two different things but I'm hoping he can take what he's done in the offseason and put it all together out there on the football field."
Offseason is about more than developing muscles, however. It's about developing leadership. Long believes several Vols have stepped up in that area the past few weeks. One of these is Luke Stocker, a 6-6, 240-pound sophomore tight end.
"Luke Stocker is a great example," Long said. "If you look at what he's done, he's definitely taken on a leadership role during this offseason. I've seen him push the younger guys. That's important. It all doesn't need to come from me each and every day. I need my seniors and juniors to step up. Even freshmen and sophomores, you like to see them becoming leaders."
Asked about other players who are showing newfound leadership skills this summer, Long quickly rattled off several names:
Long also mentioned linebackers Rico McCoy and Adam Myers-White, noting that the latter "has really worked hard at doing things right – as a leader, lifting weights and trying to bring the team together."
Given all of this newfound leadership, Tennessee may be primed for one "L" of a fall.