KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee preseason All-SEC selections Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Cameron Sutton were two of the seniors voted captains by their teammates, deserving on all counts.
But while the friendly Reeves-Maybin goes through drills in his green no-contact jersey, and Sutton quietly covers receivers, the Vols’ defense two so-called “enforcers” are on patrol in the forms of Derek Barnett and Darrin Kirkland.
“Maybin and Sutton have been elected the captains, and they’ve done a great job,” UT defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said. “(Barnett) has truly been my enforcer on defense, if a message needs to be sent to the guys, he and Kirkland have done it.
“Both those guys, they aren’t afraid to jump a teammate or get a guy going in the right direction,” Shoop said, describing traits that Tennessee all-time great Al Wilson was known for during the program’s 1998 national championship march.
“It can’t always come from the coaches, it has to come from the leadership of the players, and both of those guys have done outstanding job with that.”
Barnett told SECcountry.com in an exclusive interview last week that he has, in fact, taken counsel from Wilson on how better to assert himself as a team leader.
“Barnett and Kirkland .. they got some dog in them,” Shoop said, “and I mean that in a good way”
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee athletics for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s SEC Country and lives in Knoxville.