Will Corey Vereen Play Linebacker in the NFL?

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    Photo Credit: UT Athletics

    Position changes from college football to the NFL happen all the time. Braxton Miller and Terrelle Pryor were quarterbacks in college who switched to wide receiver in the NFL (Miller switched his last year at Ohio State in preparation), while others, such as tight end Erik Swoope of the Indianapolis Colts, played a completely different sport before going into the NFL.

    Now there’s talk of a certain former Vol switching positions at the next level.

    Corey Vereen played exclusively defensive end for Tennessee. For the last three seasons, Vereen was the defensive end opposite the Vols’ record-setting pass rusher, Derek Barnett, and he benefited from that greatly. Vereen piled up 112 tackles, 13 sacks, 26 tackles for loss, and 18 quarterback hurries in his 48 career games as a Vol. But he’s not looking at staying at defensive end for his professional career.

    “I feel a lot, a lot more comfortable, especially in those (linebacker) drills, with dropping (into coverage) and everything,” Vereen stated after Tennessee’s Pro Day on Friday. “I feel like it would be a pretty good position for me.”

    At 6-foot-2, 249 pounds, Vereen has the size and build that would fit a linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme in the NFL. In fact, one recent Vol, Curt Maggitt, made a similar transition when he landed on a roster in the NFL. Maggitt was used as both a linebacker and defensive end in college, but he’s currently a linebacker in the 3-4 defensive scheme of the Indianapolis Colts.

    For Vereen, a switch to outside linebacker would make sense on multiple levels. He’s a little undersized for a typical NFL defensive end, and Vereen’s specialty is rushing the passer. Many 3-4 defensive schemes will have one linebacker they rotate in and out who is used exclusively as a pass rusher. But Vereen did have some luck in coverage as a Vol as well, including breaking up three passes his senior year, and he continued to work on that skill this offseason.

    Vereen said after the Vols’ Pro Day that he was pleased with “the linebacker drills especially,” and added that he “didn’t drop any balls.”

    “I was clean. It felt smooth,” Vereen noted about his performances in the linebacker drills at Pro Day.

    “Some teams see me strictly as a 4-3 defensive end,” Vereen said. “Other teams (see me as) a 3-4 outside linebacker. Depends on where you go, that’s going to dictate where you’ll be. It just depends on where I end up.”

    Vereen knows that his time at Tennessee can be characterized mostly by one thing, however: Pass rushing.

    “Pass rushing, that’s kind of what me and Derek (Barnett) do,” Vereen stated. “That’s why we’re on the field.”

    But Vereen wants to change the minds of NFL scouts who would pigeonhole him as just a 4-3 defensive end. And he hopes his performance at Tennessee’s Pro Day was enough to sway some people.

    “The dropping stuff gives you versatility and adds to why they’d want you over another guy,” Vereen said. “You always want to be versatile so people can do whatever they need to do with you.

    “I’m pretty happy. I felt like I could have done better in some areas. But I’m blessed, so I can’t complain.”

    The NFL Draft starts on April 27th and ends April 29th. Vereen isn’t receiving many draft grades from scouts and analysts, but he will likely land in a camp as an undrafted free agent even if he doesn’t hear his name called during the draft.

    Nathanael Rutherford
    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.