Just four days into fall camp, the Tennessee football team suffered a pair of setbacks on its defensive line.
Projected starters Ben Martin and Marlon Walls each injured an Achilles tendon and will be out indefinitely, possibly the entire season.
“Our Achilles heel so far has been our Achilles heel,” head coach Derek Dooley said after practice Sunday. “Marlon, it looks like he’s going to be out for awhile with the same injury as Ben. So that’s too bad.”
Martin started 11 games last season at defensive end and recorded 38 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
Walls appeared in seven games a year ago at defensive tackle, collecting two tackles against Memphis.
Both Martin and Walls have a redshirt year available if either is unable to play this season.
Defensive end was one of the Vols’ deepest positions entering fall camp with veterans Martin, Chris Walker, Gerald Williams and Willie Bohannan, freshmen Jacques Smith and Corey Miller and transfer Malik Jackson from USC.
“I had to be an even more vocal leader when Ben Martin stepped out,” Williams said. “Chris Walker and I, as seniors, are going to lead the defense to the best of our ability along with (linebacker) Nick Reveiz and all the other seniors coming back.”
Defensive tackle was one of the major question marks entering the year. Dooley said he only has confidence in sophomore Montori Hughes right now.
“I don’t have a sense for what any of the (defensive) tackles can do other than Montori right now,” Dooley said. “Montori is a really good player. He plays with great reckless abandon out there. He’s got tremendous competitive fire. We need to get more guys like him.”
On Sunday, senior Victor Thomas was moved to defensive tackle after working at center in the spring and early in fall camp. Thomas, along with Rae Sykes, Arthur Jeffrey and Steven Fowlkes, will be asked to step up with the absence of Walls and seize his opportunity.
“But here’s the thing about football,” Dooley said. “You can’t sulk too long. Injuries are a part of it, and you just adjust and move on. It doesn’t mean you don’t hurt for the guys that are injured, but they’ll be fine. It’s opportunity. One man’s loss is another man’s opportunity.”
One new Vol taking advantage of an opportunity is Brent Brewer. A 22-year-old freshman, Brewer spent the past four years playing minor league baseball in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
He was originally committed to Florida State but was drafted by the Brewers in the second round of the 2006 MLB Draft. He has already impressed Dooley enough for the first-year head coach to use a baseball term to describe the safety.
“I think (Brewer) is going to be a steal for us,” he said. “He’s a great athlete. He’s instinctive. The problem is he hasn’t played (football) in five years, and that’s a long time.”
Being away from football for five years has meant Brewer has had to learn quickly, but he believes it is coming back to him naturally.
“I’m still trying to work on my backpedal, reading the routes the wide receivers are running and getting that hitting instinct back,” Brewer said. “I’m doing pretty well. It’s coming slow, but I should be good by the end of camp. I’m out here working hard every day, trying to learn the playbook. It’s hard, (but) I didn’t come in here thinking it was going to be easy.”
Fall camp continues this week with the team in full pads.
Injuries mar beginning of Vols’ fall camp
Published: Tue Aug 10, 2010