SEC: Daniel Hood

Schedule: The Vols' first practice is on Friday, and their first day in pads is on Aug. 7. They open the season against NC State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta on Aug. 31. The game will be televised on ESPNU at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Returning starters: Ten on offense, seven on defense and the place-kicker and punter on special teams.

Star power: Quarterback Tyler Bray has yet to complete a full season as Tennessee's quarterback, but he has all the talent to be a star in this league. In the 16 games he's played in he has 3,832 passing yards, 35 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

New faces: Junior college transfer Darrington Sentimore was a welcome addition on the defensive line this spring, but now things will heat up as he tries to take a starting spot inside. Tennessee's staff is also very excited about the arrival of fellow juco defensive lineman Daniel McCullers, who the staff thinks can come in this fall and immediately compete for the noseguard spot. Another juco player getting a lot of attention is wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who should add another deep threat to Bray's arsenal.

Don’t forget about: Senior linebacker Herman Lathers missed all of last season after fracturing his ankle in early June. He was expected to have a true breakout year in 2011, after collecting 75 tackles, including 4.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks in 2010. While he was held out of action last year, it didn't seem to slow him much this spring. The staff is expecting him to build off of his sophomore season, and he should be a key cog on the Vols' defense this fall.

Big shoes to fill: With defensive tackle Malik Jackson gone, Tennessee's staff is scrambling to find someone to clog the middle this fall. Stepping up in the middle will be even more important, as the Vols work more out of the 3-4 scheme. A lot was expected from Maurice Couch last year, but he didn't really get going until the end of last season. Couch enters the fall as a co-starter with Daniel Hood and Gregory Clark. Sentimore is a co-starter with Steven Fowlkes at the other tackle spot when the Vols are in the 4-3. Sentimore and McCullers should get plenty of chances this fall to push for time in the middle of Tennessee's line.

Key battles: The battle at defensive tackle is big for the Vols, but the battle at running back might be even more exciting this fall, as three backs -- Marlin Lane, Rajion Neal and Devrin Young -- all left spring as co-starters. Lane didn't do much in the rushing department last year, but had a very good spring. The staff is also very excited about the potential Neal and Young have. Young could be a big-play threat for this offense. Tennessee struggled all season to run the ball, so improving in that area is key in 2012.

Rising star: Tennessee's staff was always excited about offensive lineman Antonio Richardson, but he was left to special teams duty last year. This spring, he took over the left tackle spot and should give the Vols the stability it searched for up front last year. Richardson is big (6-foot-6, 332 pounds) and athletic. He's young, but the staff isn't concerned about him holding his own against SEC pass-rushers.

Bottom line: There is no doubt that this is the most talented team Derek Dooley's has had in Knoxville. After two straight losing seasons, Dooley believes he has the pieces in place to make a run in the SEC East. The team appears much more confidence and the players have their minds on the SEC championship in Atlanta. Tennessee could have the East's most explosive passing game, while the defense returns a handful of experienced players, but is learning from four new defensive coaches, including defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri. A strong start will go a long way for this team, but if the Vols record another losing season, it could be the end for Dooley.

Tennessee spring wrap

May, 15, 2012
2011 record: 5-7
2011 conference record: 1-7
Returning starters: Offense: 10; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners:
OG Dallas Thomas, WR Da'Rick Rogers, OT Ja'Wuan James, WR Justin Hunter, TE Mychal Rivera, QB Tyler Bray, LB A.J. Johnson, S Brian Randolph, LB Curt Maggitt, LB Herman Lathers, CB Prentiss Waggner

Key losses:
RB Tauren Poole, DT Malik Jackson, DE Ben Martin, LB Austin Johnson

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Tauren Poole (693 yards)
Passing: Tyler Bray* (1,983 yards)
Receiving: Da'Rick Rogers* (1,040 yards)
Tackles: Austin Johnson (81)
Sacks: Malik Jackson (2.5)
Interceptions: Austin Johnson (4)

Spring answers

1. Tyler Bray's leadership: No one has questioned Bray's arm as he can sling it with the best of them. But his heart has been questioned, and he knew it heading into spring. He never considered himself a real leader until this year, when he decided to take his job more seriously. Bray said players listened to him more in practice and respected him more as a person, not just a player. Bray can now be looked at as someone to rally around and look up to. He's finally learning how to be a real quarterback in this league.

2. Richardson's revival: Tennessee's offensive line took a lot of heat last season and for good reason. The Vols were last in the SEC and 116th nationally in rushing. The line needed to find a spark and rising sophomore Antonio Richardson might be just that. His potential has always impressed coaches and after playing on special teams last year, he came out of the spring as the starter at left tackle. Richardson is an extremely athletic and gifted player and the coaches feel confident that he can protect Bray's blind side.

3. Lathers' and Hunter's health: Linebacker Herman Lathers and wide receiver Justin Hunter did all the right things this spring. Lathers missed the 2011 season with an ankle injury, while Hunter missed most of the season after tearing his ACL in against Florida last September. While both still aren't 100 percent, the coaches feel confident that both will be by the fall. Hunter got some good work in this spring and even flew by some players in a scrimmage. Lathers' ankle progressed more and more and thinks he'll be right on track come fall practice.

Fall questions

1. Defensive comfort: Tennessee returns eight defensive starters, but it welcomed a brand new defensive coordinator in Sal Suneri, three other new coaches and a new defensive scheme. Sunseri would like to run more 3-4 this fall, but it'll take time for his players to adjust and Tennessee isn't sure if that comfort level is quite there yet. Tennessee players will also have to continuing adjusting to the new coaching faces they'll be working with this fall. It's important that this defense, which is still relatively young, get on the same page exiting camp.

2. Running the ball: Rising sophomore Marlin Lane showed nice improvement, but he finished the spring tied with Rajion Neal and Devrin Young at running back. So, the jury is still out on whether this team will be able to run the ball more consistently this season and Tennessee might have to look to its incoming freshmen for more help. While the running backs struggled last year, the offensive line was another reason for the Vols' shortcomings in the rushing department. There was a lot of movement up front and improvements need to start there before Tennessee can even think about handing the ball off more.

3. Defensive tackle: There's a lot of uncertainty and inexperience at tackle, and a lot of of players listed as co-starters on Tennessee's post-spring depth chart. Maurice Couch had an up-and-down 2011 season and now will be called to take on more responsibility now that Malik Jackson is gone. Daniel Hood, who was recovering from shoulder surgery this spring, Steven Fowlkes, Darrington Sentimore and Gregory Clark will all get chances in the middle. Also, keep an eye on incoming junior college transfer Daniel McCullers, who the coaches think can contribute immediately.
Tennessee returns a lot of young talent it had last year, but will miss one of its best leaders and players from the defensive line:

OUT: DT Malik Jackson: It was hard to find a more complete player for the Vols last year than Jackson. He was a force up front for Tennessee and led the Vols in tackles for loss (11), sacks (2.5) and quarterback hurries (10). Over the final eight games of the 2011 season, he registered 42 tackles (5.3 per game) with 9.5 tackles for loss. Jackson played most of his Tennessee career at defensive tackle, but was athletic enough and versatile enough to play defensive end -- the position he started out in. Jackson clogged the middle in the run game and had the strength and speed to make quarterbacks miserable as well. Outside of being a tremendous defender for the Vols, he was a very outspoken leader for the team. He commanded respect with both his play and his words, which will be hard to replace.

IN: Maurice Couch, Darrington Sentimore, Marlon Walls or Daniel McCullers: With Tennessee moving to a 3-4 defense, the Vols will be looking for a handful of players to make impacts up front. Jackson probably could have played at multiple spots up front in a 3-4, so it will take a collective effort to fill his shoes. Couch was supposed to come in and make an immediate impact for Tennessee at tackle, but didn't really turn things on until the end of the season. Now, he'll be asked to play the nose tackle position, where Tennessee is hurting for depth at them moment. He's hoping his 6-foot-2, 295-pound frame helps him jam up the middle. Nose tackle Daniel Hood underwent offseason shoulder surgery and is non-contact this spring, so Tennessee will have to move people around. Sentimore, who transferred from Alabama and played at the junior college level, will get more time at one of the end spots up front. The staff is very excited about he could do for this defense and the hope is that his impact is felt very early. It seems like Walls has been on campus forever and while he didn't have a great year in 2011, he entered spring atop one of the defensive end spots. He's big and athletic, but it's time for him to become a more complete player. McCullers won't be on campus until the summer, but the staff thinks he can come in and immediately compete for that nose tackle spot.

Opening spring camp: Tennessee

March, 26, 2012
Schedule: Tennessee begins spring practice Monday and concludes with the Orange and White Game on April 21.

What's new: There was a lot of movement on coach Derek Dooley's staff this offseason. Seven new coaches are in Knoxville this spring. Sal Sunseri arrives as the Vols' new defensive coordinator after serving as Alabama's linebackers coach the previous three seasons. After being a defensive assistant at Alabama from 2010-11 and the defensive backs coach at Central Florida for a couple months, Derrick Ansley joined Tennessee's staff to coach the Vols' cornerbacks. Charlie Coiner is Tennessee's new special teams/tight ends coach. Josh Conklin left The Citadel to coach Tennessee's safeties, and Jay Graham left South Carolina to return to his alma mater to coach running backs. John Palermo and Sam Pittman round out Tennessee's new hires. Palermo will coach the Vols' defensive line, and Pittman will coach the offensive line. Tennessee also welcomed seven early enrollees -- Cody Blanc (wide receiver), Alden Hill (running back), Justin Meredith (tight end), Nathan Peterman (quarterback), Darrington Sentimore and Trent Taylor (defensive line), and Tino Thomas (defensive back).

On the mend: Wide receiver Justin Hunter and defensive back/linebacker Brent Brewer are both coming off of ACL injuries from last fall and will be limited during the spring. Linebacker Curt Maggitt, nose guard Daniel Hood and defensive back Prentiss Waggner all had offseason shoulder surgery and will be non-contact this spring. Offensive lineman Zach Fulton will be limited this spring as he tries to recover from a stress fracture suffered a couple of weeks ago during offseason workouts. Offensive lineman JerQuari Schofield and defensive lineman Corey Miller will not be practicing for academic reasons.

On the move: Dooley plans to move a few players around this spring. With Tennessee moving to a 3-4 defense, the team is adding to its linebacker depth. Brewer (defensive back), Channing Fugate (fullback), Jacques Smith (defensive lineman), and Willie Bohannon (defensive lineman) are all working at linebacker this spring. Smith and Bohannon will compete at the Jack linebacker spot. Maggitt is also moving to inside linebacker. Rajion Neal is moving exclusively to running back after playing both wide receiver and running back last season. Waggner is moving back to cornerback after playing safety last season. James Stone, a center last season, will play some guard and tackle this spring.

Questions: The Vols return a lot of bodies on defense, but with a new coordinator, new scheme, and several position changes, there will be starting jobs available. With the 3-4 coming in, Tennessee will be in search of a reliable nose guard. Maurice Couch played there more as last season progressed, but Tennessee's staff thinks very highly of incoming junior college noseguard Daniel McCullers, who will be on campus this summer. Having Hood limited also means depth is an issue there this spring. There is still a little uncertainty in Tennessee's secondary. Waggner moving to cornerback will help with boundary play, but it takes a solid player out of the safety spot. Redshirt senior Rod Wilks takes over at free safey, but has no career starts. The running back position also enters the spring with questions surrounding it. The Vols were last in the SEC in rushing last season, and lose starter Tauren Poole. Only three lettermen return, and none are proven. Neal and Marlin Lane will start spring getting the majority of reps, but they combined for just 414 rushing yards on 102 carries last season.

Key battle: Injuries to Hunter and quarterback Tyler Bray certainly hurt Tennessee's offense last season, but being unable to run the ball effectively really kept the Vols from overcoming their struggles in the passing game. There is no question that Tennessee's run game, which ranked 116th nationally (90.1) last season, needs a major upgrade. Lane and Neal will get the first shots at earning the job this spring, but having Hill on campus early will definitely add some depth, and he should push both this spring. Sophomore Devrin Young, who rushed for 25 yards last season, will also compete for time this spring. Tennessee can't go another season without having much of a running game to speak of if it wants to take a step forward and compete for an SEC East title.

Don't forget about: Tennessee will get back a familiar face on defense this spring when linebacker Herman Lathers returns. After fracturing his ankle last June, Lathers missed all of the 2011 season, but will be full go this spring. Tennessee needs more linebackers, and adding a veteran like Lathers will help. Tennessee's staff is also excited about what Sentimore can bring to the defensive end spot. He played one season at Alabama before going the JUCO route in 2011. He's on campus now, and is listed on the Vols' two-deep at one of the end spots. Sentimore has a good shot at earning a starting spot this spring.

Breaking out: The staff has high expectations for offensive lineman Antonio Richardson. The sophomore spent 2011 playing on special teams, but after being such a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school, the coaches are expecting him to compete for playing time even though the Vols return all five starters. With Fulton limited this spring, Richardson will get his chance to impress. Also, Lane is a player who has the physical tools to make a big jump this spring. He was a top high school prospect, and now has a chance to claim the running back spot for himself. He's a big body with pretty good speed, but Lane needs to work on his consistency.

All eyes on: Bray has yet to play a full season at Tennessee. A thumb injury kept him out for half of the 2011 season, but he appears to be back to full health. He wasn't great when he returned at the end of last season, but rust will do that to a quarterback. Now is a chance for Bray to get back into the swing of things and get more comfortable after his injury. It's also time for him to improve his leadership skills. Those have been called into question during his two years in Knoxville, but now that he's officially a veteran, it's time for him to take hold of this team. He has weapons around him to help his passing numbers, but Bray should look to improve this team as a whole by leading by both example and with his words.

Tennessee opens fall camp

August, 3, 2011
Tennessee was the first SEC team to open preseason practice on Tuesday, and the website has a complete rundown, including video of Derek Dooley's post-practice comments and links to stories from different media outlets around the state.

It sounds like sophomore Daniel Hood is serious about making an impact at defensive tackle. Hood, who's listed at 293 pounds now, made the switch from offensive line and is one of the players Dooley complimented.

Junior safety Janzen Jackson also made a big impact in his first day back. He missed all of spring practice after withdrawing from school last semester to deal with personal issues.

"I think what benefits the team is just his energy level," Dooley said of Jackson. "It rubs off on people. He's first in everything. He has good enthusiasm. He's active. He loves competing. He's everything you look for in a competitor on the field."

After suffering his second torn Achilles tendon, senior defensive end Ben Martin was back on Haslam Field for the first practice. The Cincinnati native missed last season after his first torn Achilles suffered in August 2010. Then in February, he suffered the same injury on the foot causing him to miss spring practice.

"It felt really good to be back on the field with the guys," Martin said. "It felt good to be a part of the team again, going through the drills and getting yelled at by the coaches, it felt good again."

Martin took a moment to collect himself when asked about what `the moment' was that he felt like he was back.

"Probably when we were going through the first set of drills and I realized I was tired -- this is what football is supposed to feel like," Martin said. "I had my helmet, my mouth piece, that's what football is. I wasn't hesitant -- that's how you get hurt. I do think about limitations and have to know what my limits are .... But I am a football player, I just want to get back out there and play."

Sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray said he's up to 202 pounds, and one of the battles to watch this August will be at safety. Junior Prentiss Waggner, who had five interceptions last season, will be vying with Jackson and Brent Brewer for one of the starting jobs. It could be that Waggner settles in as a nickelback. He's also played some at cornerback, so his versatility should come in handy for the Vols this season.

They also have junior college newcomers Byron Moore and Izauea Lanier, both of whom are expected to contribute right away in the secondary.

SEC lunch links

June, 14, 2011
Checking on what's making headlines around the SEC:
With spring officially over in the SEC world, it’s time to take another look at some of the guys who surprised this spring.

After the first weekend of spring games, guys like LSU wide receiver Kadron Boone and South Carolina offensive lineman A.J. Cann drew high praise from their respective coaches.

Here’s a look at the players from the past two weeks of spring games who helped get their names out there:


RB Eddie Lacy -- Last season, Lacy’s production was hindered because of a problem with fumbling. Lacy helped shake that stigma with a strong spring and appears to have secured the No. 2 running back spot. He finished the spring game with 74 yards (44 rushing, 30 receiving).

WR Brandon Gibson -- The fifth-year senior had a productive spring not only at wideout, but he’s becoming more of a leader for the Tide. He's always been a special-teams workhorse, but he's looking to make a name at receiver. He recorded five catches for 53 yards, including a long of 27, in Alabama’s spring game.


S Eric Bennett -- The sophomore from Tulsa, Okla., made it a battle this spring at the strong safety position with senior Elton Ford. Bennett was a quarterback in high school and has an edge to him that all coaches like. Whether he wins the starting job or not, he’s proved that he can help the Hogs in the secondary in 2011.

RB Ronnie Wingo, Jr. -- With the season Knile Davis had a year ago, a lot of people forgot about Wingo. But he came back this spring and showed his big-play capability both as a ball carrier and pass-catcher. He rushed for 62 yards on 11 carries in the spring game.


DE Joel Bonomolo – The junior college transfer was injured all of 2010, and while he’s still a bit raw, he led the defense during the spring game with six tackles, three for a loss, including two sacks. He still has some things to learn, but he finished the spring on the right track heading into the offseason.

RB Anthony Morgan -- Morgan has moved all over the field during his Auburn career, but seemed to make a statement at running back this spring. He finished the spring game with a team-high 57 yards on six carries, and if he continues to improve, coach Gene Chizik said he could earn playing time this fall.


DT Kwame Geathers -- The sophomore noseguard was one of the biggest surprises of the spring for the Bulldogs. He was named the defensive MVP for spring practice by Georgia’s coaches and had four tackles, including two for loss, in the spring game.

RB Ken Malcome -- Injured for part of the spring and seemingly buried on the depth chart, Malcome showed some of his bulldozing ability in the spring game. He's the kind of downhill runner the Bulldogs want in their offense, and if he's healthy he could contribute. He scored the game-winning, 12-yard touchdown and finished with 39 yards on the ground.


DE Collins Ukwu -- A starter a year ago, Ukwu only had one sack all season and none in SEC games. Look for that to change in 2011. He’s gotten bigger and stronger, adding to his great speed, and was a force this spring. He had two tackles for loss, including a sack, in the spring game.

WR Brian Adams -- The Wildcats were looking for dependable playmakers at receiver following the loss of Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews, and even though Adams split his time between football and baseball, he was as consistent as anybody. He was the star of the spring game with seven catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns.

Ole Miss

WR Vincent Sanders -- The redshirt freshman looked like the playmaker the Rebels had desperately searched for at times this spring. Like most of the other receivers, he was inconsistent at times, but finished the spring game with a game-high 96 receiving yards and a touchdown on four catches.

S Brishen Mathews -- Mathews worked his way into the No. 1 strong safety spot exiting spring. He was a pleasant surprise for the Rebels’ secondary and finished the spring game tying for a game-high eight tackles.


DT Daniel Hood -- After spending last season on the offensive line, Hood moved to defense and exited the spring as one of the starters at tackle. The Vols are extremely thin inside on the defensive line, and Hood gives them another big, athletic body in there.

RB Rajion Neal -- After carrying the ball just 46 times last season, Neal emerged this spring as a nice complement to Tauren Poole. Tennessee coach Derek Dooley is looking for two No. 1' at running back, and Neal showed some big-play ability the Vols were missing a year ago.


DT Colt Nichter -- With the injuries the Commodores were forced to weather up front last season, Nichter stepped in and played very well. But this spring, he showed signs of becoming a star and was a disruptive presence in every scrimmage. He had two sacks and two pass breakups in the spring game.

RB Wesley Tate -- The two big names in the Commodores’ backfield last season were Warren Norman and Zac Stacy, but get ready to add a third name to that equation. The 225-pound Tate showcased power and speed this spring and will add a different dimension to the Vanderbilt running game now that he’s healthy.

Lunchtime links: Breaking down the SEC

May, 12, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

Taking a look at the latest happenings around the SEC:

  • Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun breaks down the SEC coming out of the spring and picks Florida to beat Alabama in an SEC Championship Game rematch.

Lunchtime links: Tide signee accused of harassment

May, 8, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

Making the rounds in the SEC:

  • Alabama signee Nico Johnson, a highly rated linebacker prospect from Andalusia, Ala., has turned himself into police on a misdemeanor charge of harassment. 
  • Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News writes that Florida's Urban Meyer could learn a thing or two from Auburn's Gene Chizik when it comes to handling criticism.
  • If you haven't already had your fill of Tim Tebow, there's now such a thing as "TeeBows." Yes, women's underwear.

Lunchtime links: Gators face grueling offseason

May, 7, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

Taking a stroll around the SEC:

  • The victim in a rape case involving Daniel Hood supports Tennessee's decision to give a scholarship to Hood, who was convicted as a juvenile on charges of aggravated rape and kidnapping.

Vols think Hood worth the gamble

May, 6, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

There's no sugarcoating it.

Tennessee's taking a huge chance by signing Daniel Hood, who as a 13-year-old kid was part of a despicable crime. He watched as an older friend of his raped Hood's 14-year-old cousin in Hood's bedroom. She testified that they both took part in tying her up with duct tape.

The graphic details of the rape make you sick when you read the 21-page court document from Hood's appeal of the case. He was tried as a juvenile and found to be delinquent on the basis that he had committed the adult offenses of kidnapping and aggravated rape.

  Amy Smotherman Burgess/Knoxville News Sentinel
  Daniel Hood signed on to play for the Tennessee Volunteers on Tuesday.

Six years later, he's now a member of Tennessee's football team, signing with the Vols on Tuesday.

I had a chance to meet with Hood on Tuesday night and hit him with some tough questions. He didn't dodge any of them and repeated over and over again how blessed he was that so many people had gone to bat for him, including the rape victim.

Her letter on Hood's behalf was one of the key pieces of information for Tennessee officials as they debated whether or not to take Hood.

Extremely intelligent. Hood understands the microscope he will be under at Tennessee. He also understands how somebody could read that report and cry out, "How could anybody give a person involved in such a heinous crime a free ride to go to school and play football?"

His only request is that people give him an opportunity to prove who he's become and not who he was as a scared 13-year-old who froze six years ago.

Colleges wrestle with these decisions all the time. And let's be honest here. They don't take chances on marginal players who are undersized or deficient in some other area.

It just so happens that Hood projects to play a position that Tennessee is frighteningly thin at -- offensive tackle.

Some fans have suggested that Hood should have been required to walk on this first year and prove that he's worthy of a scholarship. The outpouring of people who've taught and coached him at Catholic High School in Knoxville said he's already proven that with his exemplary record there the last three years.

Still, this is a gamble by the Vols, and they had better be willing to suffer the consequences. They insist they are.

It's not the first time Tennessee has taken a chance on a player who's been in trouble prior to signing a scholarship. The Vols took Jason Respert under the previous coaching staff after Respert got into some trouble with a female on a recruiting trip to Florida.

Respert repaid the Vols by being a solid citizen, a solid player, and a leader on the team. He was never in trouble again.

Sometimes, these second chances don't work out as well.

Ole Miss signed defensive back Jamar Hornsby after Hornsby had been kicked off Florida's team for the fraudulent use of a dead Florida student's credit card. She just happened to be the girlfriend of Florida cornerback Joe Haden.

Tennessee also recruited Hornsby, who attended junior college last year. But not long after signing with Ole Miss, Hornsby was in trouble with the law again. He was arrested and charged with hitting somebody with brass knuckles in a fight at a McDonald's drive-thru. Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt is waiting on the legal process to run its course before making a decision on Hornsby.

Georgia decided recently not to take a chance on Dexter Moody, a highly rated linebacker from Twin City, Ga. Moody signed with the Bulldogs, but was released from his scholarship after threatening a teacher at his high school.

Ironically, the Vols began to show interest in Moody following his release from Georgia and had him on campus for a visit. But the latest word from Tennessee officials is that they have elected not to offer Moody a scholarship.

After all, there will be enough scrutiny with Hood, who's anything but naïve about the situation.

"I won't even be able to jaywalk, and that's the way it should be," Hood said.