'Beautiful' LB corps

'Beautiful' LB corps

Tennessee's Greg King thought he'd surpass expectations last fall ... and he was right. He thinks the Vol linebacker corps will surpass expectations this fall. If he's right again, the Big Orange could field a pretty salty defense.

"It's beautiful. It's beautiful," he said when asked about the linebacker outlook for 2010. "We've got some young guys coming in and we've still got a lot of old guys that played last year. We've got good depth. Everything's going to be great."

Greg King bases that optimism in part on the return of senior middle linebacker Nick Reveiz, who missed all but the first 3 1/2 games of 2009 due to an ACL tear.

"Nick's the key," King said. "He knows it all. He's a great player. I love him as my brother."

King is a potentially great player in his own right. A graduate of Melrose High in Memphis, he played in nine games as a UT freshman last fall, starting twice. The 6-1, 222-pounder recorded 24 stops in 2009, with 1.5 tackles for loss and an interception vs. South Carolina.

King was supposed to challenge for a full-time starting job this fall but a preseason leg injury has limited his practice time. Once he's cleared to play, he's expecting to have a breakout year.

"I've learned a whole lot about schemes and stuff," he said. "They threw me out there real quick last year. I had a whole lot of pressure on my shoulders but it helped me. It will benefit me this year because I know how the tempo and pace of the game goes. I'm looking forward to getting ready to play now."

After beginning the 2009 season as a reserve middle linebacker, King moved to strongside 'backer and started Game 4 vs. Ohio. He was injured in Game 5 vs. Auburn and missed Game 6 vs. Georgia. After filling a backup role in Games 7, 8, 9 and 10, he started Game 11 vs. Vanderbilt. Injured again, he missed the regular-season finale at Kentucky and the Chick fil-A Bowl against Virginia Tech.

Because the position was decimated by injuries last fall, linebacker coach Lance Thompson is preparing his troops to play multiple spots this fall.

"I'm working at Sam (strong side) and Will (weak side)," King said. "Being able to play two positions helps because you know where everything is on the field and how to play it. Then, if one person does go down, you can step up and know what you've got to do."

Although he's having some physical problems these days, King says he has never been sharper mentally.

"I've watched a lot more film," he said. "I'm knowing football better and trying to be a great football player mentally. I'm improving my intensity and reading my keys. That's coming along real well."

Now, if only he could get healthy enough to put those skills on display ...

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