Aug. 3, 2013
By Brian Rice
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.-- As Tennessee heads into the 2013 season, four returnees from the Knoxville area are poised to fill key roles on each side of the ball. For the local guys, having a starring role on Team 117 has given them a special bond with the program that they grew up so close to.
Redshirt sophomore lineman Kyler Kerbyson grew up a Vol fan and draws on that passion every day as he takes the field.
"It means a whole lot," Kerbyson said of wearing the orange and white. "I grew up being a UT fan from since I can remember, five, six years old. This is what I bleed, I'm from here and that's what I'm about."
Kerbyson's spot on the offensive line gives him the chance to matchup against his high school teammate from Knoxville Catholic, defensive tackle Daniel Hood. The battles in practice have given him the chance to dish out a little bit of payback from when the two faced off as high school players.
"It makes it a lot more fun," he said of playing against Hood in practice, after each were two-way players during the prep days. "He used to beat up on me in high school because he was a senior and I was a sophomore and I was a little smaller. Now that I'm here, I can return the favor a little bit. We're still really close because we've known each other such a long time."
Hood said the local angle, along with his status as a senior, makes this upcoming season very important to him.
"That I'm from here and the fact that it's my last time around," Hood said when asked about his motivation in fall camp. "For those two reasons, it means more to me."
Junior Devrin Young, a running back and wide receiver in his time at Bearden High School, remembers sweeping a pair of meetings from Kerbyson as prep players, but also remembers a few hits that Kerbyson delivered.
"Both games were pretty good," Young said. "But Kyler left his mark on me pretty good."
Sophomore Cody Blanc from Knoxville Central, the same high school that produced former Vol quarterback and current Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, is battling for a wide receiver sport after starring on special teams a season ago.
"For the longest time, there weren't many locals on the team," Blanc said. "So I love having the chance to play here."
Blanc and Young each look for that trend to change in the future, with more in-state players filling key roles under Butch Jones.
"I feel like Coach Jones is recruiting the state of Tennessee more heavily that in the past," Blanc said. "That's great to see."
"It's a huge blessing to be a part of that," Young said of the increasing profile of talent from inside the state performing well on the field for the state's team. "Building it brick by brick."