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Vols’ McCullers lives large in new defense

Vols’ McCullers lives large in new defense

Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2012 7:00 pm

KNOXVILLE (AP) — The best Southeastern Conference defenses in recent years have benefited from the presence of mammoth interior linemen who clog running lanes and make it easier for their teammates to deliver big plays.
Tennessee now has its candidate to fill that role in 6-foot-6, 360-pound nose guard Daniel McCullers, who’s so huge that he actually needed to lose over 20 pounds to secure his position atop the Volunteers’ depth chart.
“It’s big, just to take on the double-teams and triple-teams each play to free up the linebackers,” McCullers said. “I came here for that reason.”
McCullers looms large in Tennessee’s plans as the Vols switch from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 scheme under new coordinator Sal Sunseri. The Georgia Military College transfer is part of a first-team defensive line comprised of former junior-college players.
Maurice Couch, who delivered 37 tackles for Tennessee last year after coming over from Garden City (Kan.) Community College, starts on one end of the line. The other starting end is Darrington Sentimore, who played sparingly for Alabama in 2010 before spending last season at Gulf Coast (Miss.) Community College.
Manning the middle is McCullers, who will make his Division I debut Friday at the Georgia Dome against North Carolina State. Although McCullers grew up near North Carolina State and attended Southeast Raleigh (N.C.) High School, he rooted for North Carolina as a kid instead.
North Carolina State’s attempts to recruit McCullers out of Georgia Military College unraveled as soon as the Wolfpack mentioned making him an offensive lineman.
“He kind of told us to take a hike because he would rather play defense in college,” North Carolina State coach Tom O’Brien said.
His chances of actually playing much defense in college depended on whether he could get his weight under control.
McCullers says he was 382 pounds when he arrived at Tennessee this summer after weighing as much as 395 pounds at Georgia Military. The latter figure may be a bit conservative.
Georgia Military coach Bert Williams said McCullers weighed over 400 pounds as a freshman. Daniel Finn, who coached McCullers at Southeast Raleigh, said his staff measured him at 6-2 and 305 pounds the summer before he entered ninth grade.
Yet neither coach is surprised that McCullers already has worked his way into a starting position with an SEC program.
Published in The Messenger 8.30.12

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