KNOXVILLE — Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop has plans to make senior defensive end Corey Vereen more of a household name.
But Vereen almost seemed to brush off that notion on Tuesday, declining the notion that such high expectations put more pressure on him to perform at more of an All-SEC clip.
“Although it’s a compliment, I’m just coming to work every single day,” said Vereen, who didn’t so much as make third-team preseason All-SEC at the media days event held in Birmingham, Ala., in July.
“I appreciate his enthusiasm and confidence in me, but at the same time, I’m just working every day,” Vereen said. “I’ve definitely improved pre-snap, just knowing what can happen on every play, just reading the ball and playing football, I’m smoother.”
Shoop’s plan is to bring a more disruptive style of play to the defensive line.
The former Vanderbilt and Penn State defensive coordinator is known for his ability to create matchups up front that could increase a payer like Vereen’s sack total from the 3 1/2 he had last season, to a number approaching double digits.
“Seeing Corey Vereen out there, I’ll say this again, by the end of the year people are going to be talking about him nationwide,” Shoop said last week. “He had a touchdown in practice on a fumble return, and he has done well.”
Vereen will need to make the most of his opportunities and become more productive if he’s to have a career in the NFL.
Junior Derek Barnett, who lines up opposite of Vereen, is considered to be a far better NFL prospect entering the 2016 campaign.
Vereen believes he just needs to keep working hard and things will take care of themselves.
“I take everything with a grain of salt — obviously I’ve been doing some good things on the field in terms of staying consistent — but I also have to focus on different aspects of the game,” Vereen said. “Honestly, I just come in day to day and work hard. I feel like it’s an abundance of me putting the time in.”
Vereen came to UT from Winter Garden, Fla., as a 3-star linebacker ranked the No. 500 player in the nation by the 247sports composite.
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s SEC Country and lives in Knoxville.