KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett is a quiet guy.
He’s not the type of outspoken player the media seeks out, nor is he a player who is going to say something that causes an uproar.
Barnett doesn't talk the talk. But he does walk the walk.
"I just try to do better every time I come into this building," Barnett said Monday during a session with the media. "I'm focusing on my craft and my team."
Barnett is entering his junior season as one of the premier defensive ends in the SEC. In his first two seasons as a Vol, Barnett had 20 sacks – 10 in each season. He currently sits in a tie for eighth with Steve White for most sacks in UT history, and can tie the legendary Reggie White, who sits atop the list, with 12 sacks this season.
Barnett said the record isn't even on his radar but that "greatness" comes to mind when he thinks of White. "Reggie White, everyone respects him," Barnett said.
The skills are there for Barnett. The leadership factor is something he admits he's been working on. Barnett said a few graduating players from last season's team told him that he needed to step up and take over as a leader.
"I'm still working at it," he said. "I think that everybody can work on leadership skills. I think everyone is a leader is some type of way."
Tennessee's expectations are high. The Vols were ranked ninth in The Associated Press' preseason poll, their highest ranking since they snagged the No. 3 spot in 2005's preseason poll.
Barnett said that returning Tennessee to its past glories was something that was discussed when he was recruited by the Vols in 2014.
"I remember being here on business, and we were all sitting in the room and saying, 'If we all come here, we can make a big turnaround here,' " Barnett said. "When I think back, I think of 'TK' (Todd Kelly Jr.) being one of the ringleaders because he's from Knoxville and his dad played here, so he's really one that comes to mind."
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