'Chase' at DT intensifies

With junior Chase Nelson out for the season due to a knee injury, Tennessee's staff is closely scrutinizing the young defensive tackles in hopes a winner will emerge.

The victor could be aptly-named Victor Thomas. The 6-4, 270-pound sophomore from Olive Branch, Miss., is bidding for playing time in the tackle rotation behind proven veterans Dan Williams, Demonte Bolden and Walter Fisher. Thomas stated his case eloquently in last Saturday's scrimmage, recording a tackle for loss and one of only two sacks by Vol linemen.

Economical with words, Thomas described his performance as "pretty good" and seemed especially happy about the sack.

"Coach told us to come out today and get pressure on the quarterback," he said. "I think we did a pretty good job."

Thomas and redshirt freshman Donald Langley are waging a friendly battle for the No. 4 spot in the D-tackle mix. The Vols plan to rotate five tackles, so both will play a lot this fall.

"With Chase out, that means the younger guys have to step up," Thomas noted. "Me and Donald have to step up and provide more depth at D-tackle."

Tennessee's tackle play was mediocre in 2007, and the Vols will be without two of last fall's key contributors – part-time starter J.T. Mapu and key reserve Nelson – in 2008. Many observers figure defensive tackle is the weakest position on the Vol roster. Naturally, this motivates Thomas and his fellow D-tackles.

"We've got a lot to prove," he conceded. "The scrimmage was big for us. Coach Fulmer told us it was going to be a big day for us and we needed to show up."

The tackles did just that, limiting Tennessee's top three tailbacks to 37 rushing yards on 26 carries.

"We did good," Thomas noted, "but we still have a lot to work on."

So, what is the key for this group of defensive tackles?

"Takeaways," Thomas replied. "We need to give good effort and run to the ball."

So far, he is giving good effort and running to the ball. If he continues to do so, Tennessee just might find itself in an ironic situation this fall:

The Vols will be going to war with a guy from Olive Branch.

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