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UT linebackers gain in face of pain

Tennessee linebackers have dealt with bad knees, concussions, back problems and a weightlifting incident.

The Vols have had to move a player to perhaps the most important spot on the defense on the fly and juggle fresh faces around him.

But as snakebit as the linebackers might appear to be heading into Saturday's game against No. 21 South Carolina, injuries still have not done much to limit their effectiveness or wear down position coach Lance Thompson.

"We were thin to start with, but I've been really proud of the guys," Thompson said. "They've been moving around a lot, we moved a guy (Savion Frazier) that had never played Mike linebacker and now he's a three-week-old Mike and he's playing pretty good for us and done a lot of good things. I just say, 'Hey guys, it's just a matter of taking advantage of your opportunities.'

"It is what it is - we have Rico (McCoy) nicked up, so when we lose Rico and Nick Reveiz (torn ACL), now we're playing with a bunch of guys that really had never been in a football game before this year."

The Vols (3-4, 1-3 SEC) have had no choice but to throw them into the fire. And though they haven't been getting burned on the scoreboard, they're typically leaving games with a few scorch marks.

Strong-side starter LaMarcus Thompson has dealt with a lingering back injury, reserve Greg King went down briefly after an accident in the weight room, Herman Lathers has missed time with concussions and Reveiz is out for the season.

McCoy was added to that list Saturday against Alabama, but he made clear it would take more than a sore knee to keep him off the field against the Gamecocks (6-2, 3-2).

"I guess you can say that (it's been bad luck), but it's all about the game, and it happens," McCoy said. "Guys get hurt, and it just so happens we've had quite a few guys get hurt at the linebacker position. But I'm in, I'll be out there Saturday and I should be 100 percent.

"I'm going to go, man. I'm going to be out there. I haven't missed a game since I've been playing here that I didn't have to miss. I practiced for the most part (Tuesday), and it's a little sore. I've been going in for rehab and icing it down and stuff like that, so I'm pretty sure I'll be close to, if not, 100 percent by Saturday."

The Vols will take whatever they can get out of their leading tackler, and McCoy apparently hasn't considered sitting out.

Frazier and LaMarcus Thompson are set to go, but the trick lately has been trying to get everybody in the middle of the defense through a game in one piece.

"(Injuries) are just part of our situation," Lance Thompson said. "These guys are doing a great job, they're working hard and coming in and doing things on their own.

"They get caught up and learn the system and the checks and the things they've got to do, but that's where recruiting is so important. You've got to recruit your depth."