After signing with the Volunteers 2008 recruiting class, UT received word through NCAA officials that linebacker turned defensive tackle Marlon Walls became academically eligible for the 2009 season early last week.
“Marlon Walls, we’ve been told, has been cleared (to play), and we’re excited to finally get him (here),” head coach Lane Kiffin said.
After missing the first 11 days of fall practice, the Olive Branch, Miss., native was declared eligible by the NCAA Clearinghouse on Aug.13.
Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron echoed Kiffin’s excitement.
“We’re just so happy for Marlon and his family that after all the hard work he’s done, he’s finally got the chance to play for Tennessee,” Orgeron said.
A four-star linebacker in high school, according to Rivals.com, Walls was once committed to Ole Miss but later signed with the Volunteers.
After failing to qualify academically, he spent the fall of 2008 at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia. Following the 2008 season, he re-signed with Tennessee in February 2009 despite the coaching change and spent the rest of his time working to make himself eligible.
Since that time, Walls has been waiting to hear from the NCAA on whether he would be eligible to play football this year. The chances didn’t look good until Kiffin and Orgeron called Walls well into fall practice with the good news.
Orgeron said he thinks Walls will be successful in orange.
“We feel like Tennessee is the right place for Marlon to get a great education,” Orgeron said. “We’re confident that Marlon is going to have success here.”
During the past year, Walls bulked up nearly 70 pounds, and the former linebacker who is slated to play defensive tackle for the Vols is currently listed as being 6 feet 2 inches tall and 290 pounds.
Orgeron believes Walls can make the adjustment.
“From what I could see, he’s in pretty good condition, but he hasn’t worked out with us one time,” Orgeron said. “But we feel like he will bring some quickness inside.”
Aside from Walls and defensive tackle Dan Williams, there are few other able bodies at tackle. Senior Wes Brown slid inside from defensive end, and he is expected to start opposite Williams, but he is still recovering from an off-season knee surgery.
Another freshman, Montori Hughes, received compliments from Orgeron and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin throughout the summer and fall and also looks to be in the playing rotation. Juniors Victor Thomas and Chase Nelson, senior Andre Mathis and sophomore Rae Sykes are also competing for playing time at defensive tackle.