After String Of Injuries, Ailments Vols' Maggitt Ready To Play

Tennessee Defensive End Hasn't Played Since November 2012

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - by Special to Chattanoogan.com

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Come Sunday, it will have been 659 days since Curt Maggitt played a snap in a college football game, but that's not what he's concerned about.

"It's four days from now," Maggitt said Wednesday. "That's what's most important. It's going to be emotional for sure. It's been a real long time since I've been out there and ran through the `T' actually suited up. I guess I'm not longer a cheerleader. I have to go out there and do it, so it's going to be good.

"

With emotions on high, Maggitt has a plan for keeping his feelings in check as he dons the pads and a Tennessee jersey for the first time since Nov. 10, 2012. He has missed the last 21 months with various injuries and ailments.

"Just look at the guys to my left and right, the purpose I'm doing it for, the reason I play the game and going out and executing," Maggitt said.

"I know the guys are going to be looking at me a lot. I'm just excited to go out there and play football."

With just days until his return, Maggitt is looking forward to his new extended role at both a new position, which he refers to as a hybrid, and as a leader for the Vols.

"I understand the game at a pretty high rate. I understand defensive end. I understand linebacker. I'm comfortable with the position I'm at."

Maggitt's return to Neyland Stadium also marks the new beginnings for the newcomers. His excitement to be a leader isn't one-sided as his teammates express their respect and excitement for him.

"He's definitely an energy boost to us,” Brian Randolph said. We’ve got our leader’s back and we're out there making plays with him, getting ready to go. He's come out with a lot of good leadership, a lot of energy and you can tell the D-Line is definitely focused with him in there."

STUDENT TICKETS SOLD OUT

A limited amount of tickets remain for Sunday's season opener by visiting UTTix.com. The student body at Tennessee has done its part as they have sold out their 12,000 tickets. It means a lot to coach Butch Jones that the students will be out to support their peers.

"I would like to say thank you to our student body," Jones said to begin his Wednesday media session. "All the student tickets are sold out for Utah State. We talk about being One Tennessee and when most places, their student attendance, their student ticket sales are down at Tennessee we are selling out our student section."

Jones is hopeful that becomes the norm in 2014.

"Now we need to make this a (regular thing) within Neyland Stadium," Jones said. "But I want to say thank you to them. I really appreciate all their support and look forward to this season venturing onto this journey with them.

READY TO GET THE RUN-AROUND

In preparing for Sunday's match-up against Utah State, defensive backs Cameron Sutton and Randolph share a common focus in the film room and on the practice field. Their eyes, along with the rest of the Vols defense, are on Aggies' senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton.

"He's a guy who is very athletic and a very mobile quarterback," Sutton said. "We know we've got to keep our points on him and keep him in the pocket."

"He can throw, he can make good passes across the field and he's very fast," Randolph added. "It's a struggle playing against an athletic, running quarterback. You could have everything covered up on the back end and he still finds a way to get loose. That's definitely a challenge this week."

Entering the 2014 season, Keeton ranks first all-time for Utah State in career completions, while he's also eighth among all active FBS quarterbacks in career rushing yards at his position. While the numbers may seem daunting at first glance, these leaders of Tennessee's defense are confident in their team's preparations.

"For our scout team period, we put Evan Berry (at quarterback) to get a little run around and so we could chase him," Randolph said. "He's very fast and gave us a good look. He pretty much ran most of the time and then we put Joshua Dobbs in there to throw a little bit too. We've got a lot more speed. I think we're better equipped to handle a fast quarterback."

With Utah State in the forefront, Sutton also credited Randolph and sophomore safety Devaun Swafford for boosting the defense's energy and camaraderie. He believes their leadership has allowed the group to push each other to their best potential and now, it's time to execute.

"They bring a lot of leadership and experience. They're very vocal and we can come to them about anything, whether it's about football or off the field. That bond and that brotherhood that we have is going to take us a long way."

D-LINE PREPPED FOR KEETON, TOO

Tennessee’s defensive line understands the difficult task going against Keeton as well.  

Freshman defensive end Derek Barnett recognizes Keeton's talent and feels prepared for what the defensive line will face.

"He's a good quarterback," Barnett said. "He can run. He's a playmaker. Coach showed us, and we got good looks from the scout team. I'm excited to play against him."

Senior defensive tackle Jordan Williams compared Keeton to Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, a dual-threat quarterback that Tennessee faced in the 2013 campaign.

"He throws pretty well when he is outside the pocket," Williams said. "We just have to get somebody in his face."

Williams believes that his line's quickness in the trenches will play to its strength.

"We have a lot of speed on the D-line, myself, (Danny) O'Brien, Barnett coming in with fresh legs and (Corey) Vereen," Williams said. "We are going to be on him."

Despite senior Jordan Williams being the only upperclassman slated to start on the Tennessee defensive line, he is confident that his younger teammates, including Barnett, will be ready.

"I can see him being a little bit nervous, but he is light years ahead of where I was," Williams said. "He knows the defense, knows the calls. He has some pretty good football intelligence. I feel like he will be fine out there."

The defensive line sees the challenge but is ready for the opportunity.

REEVES-MAYBIN READY TO LEAD

The Tennessee linebacking corps could be the strength of the Vol defense heading into this season, and one reason for that is the improved play of sophomore Jalen Reeves-Maybin.

Reeves-Maybin, who converted from safety in the spring, says he has taken large strides this offseason thanks to hard work in the film room.

"It's been great," he said. "Going through last year, and going through the spring, I feel really comfortable now. It's no problem at all, I feel like I'm a true linebacker.

"In the spring, I knew I was going to be [at linebacker]. I just tried to learn everything about the position. All my techniques and getting everything down pat so I can play fast."

Reeves-Maybin says his mental approach to the game is what makes him such an effective player.

"It just helps you play a lot faster when you know what's going on around you," he said. "I'm kind of a guy that relies on my smarts a little bit. So [I know] what's going on around me so I can play that much faster and be on top of things."

The added responsibility of being a starter has also pushed the former special teams standout to be a better, more prepared player on the gridiron.

"I have to stay in the film room that much more, I've got to be on top of my things that much more, because I've got guys behind me pushing me. I've got A.J. in the [film] room, so I'm just trying not to let my team down, basically," he said.

His hard work has definitely not gone unnoticed. In addition to routinely drawing praise from Jones, he has also earned the respect of his teammates.

"He's a great leader," said sophomore Cam Sutton. "He stays on me a lot, as well as the rest of our secondary. He stays in the film room, he knows what he's doing on the field and he's able to help everybody else around him.

"He's always around the ball, always flying around and swarming around the ball and we just need 11 guys like him on the field come game day."

(E-mail Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)

 

 


No. 3 UTC Travels To ETSU Saturday

The third-ranked Chattanooga Mocs are back on the road this week, visiting ETSU for the first time in 13 years.  Game time is set for Noon (E.D.T.) on Saturday, Oct. 1, at Tipton Stadium at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tenn.   Chattanooga is off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 1979, but is 2-0 in SoCon action for the third year in a row.  ETSU ... (click for more)

Lee Women Ranked No. 6 In NCAA DII

The Lee women’s soccer team became the second program to be ranked in the top 10 in NCAA Division II this week when the NSCAA listed the Lady Flames as No. 6 in its weekly rankings. Lee moved up seven places from No. 13 after a 5-1 win at Shorter University  on Sunday . The men’s golf team was the first to be ranked in a top 10 poll last season.   Grand Valley ... (click for more)

City To Begin Shipping Much Of Its Garbage To Bradley County

City Public Works Administrator Justin Holland said the city plans to begin shipping much of its garbage to Bradley County. He said the deal is projected to extend the life of the city landfill at Birchwood by 15 years. Mr. Holland said Bradley County "has a huge landfill and takes garbage from Knoxville and other municipalities. It's regional." He said Bradley County charges ... (click for more)

Man Says He Did Nothing To Provoke Shooting At Bakewell Gas Station; Suspect Says Victim Was Coming Toward Him

A 33-year-old man who was shot in the face during a clash at a Bakewell gas station said he did nothing to provoke the shooting. The man charged said the victim cursed him, then started toward him. General Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck, after a hearing on Tuesday, bound to the Grand Jury a charge of attempted first-degree murder against Donald Stuard II, 29, of Old Washington ... (click for more)

Jimmy Templeton Will Be Missed At The City Yards

If only we had known about the Chattanooga City Council's planned retirement send off for Jimmy Templeton of Public Works, the room would have been filled to overflowing with his friends and admirers - including me.   I have had the honor of knowing and working with Jimmy since the 1970's (and also knew his father "Big Jim").  Jimmy was a strong right hand for whoever ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Vin Scully’s Last Time

It is said that the opening paragraph of my favorite ode to baseball should be the centerpiece for the canon of sports literature. It was written by former commissioner Bart Giamatti in "The Green Fields of the Mind,” a most marvelous essay to the last day of the regular season in the major leagues. “It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in ... (click for more)