Young Backs Developing Into Players to Watch at 2016 Battle at Bristol
On Saturdays in the fall, Tennessee legacy Elliott Berry shares Shield-Watkins field with his twin brother Evan but it is those with whom he shares a last name that garner the most attention.
The younger brother of former Tennessee standout and current Kansas City Chief Eric Berry and son of former Volunteer running back James Berry, Elliott is part of a storied football lineage but the young linebacker remains unfazed by the spotlight.
"I don't really see it as a burden," said the 6-foot, 208 pound freshman in an August 2014 interview with USA Today. "My dad told me a long time ago that the only time you feel pressure is when you don't know what you're doing."
Earning playing time in five games so far this season, Berry was one of a school-record 21 true freshman to debut in the Volunteers' 2014 opener against Utah State. As his dedication and experience begins to reap dividends, coaches expect that role to grow.
"To me, the Berrys [Elliott and Evan] are very cerebral," said Head Coach Butch Jones, recalling that Elliott sent a 4:30 a.m. text message to Linebackers Coach Tommy Thigpen asking for an explanation on the position's responsibility in a particular alignment.
"They live football each and every day, and I think that's a great illustration, especially Elliott."
Elliott and his twin brother are carving their own niche in the Berry legacy at Tennessee, a campaign aided by the opportunity to play on a stage never crossed by their predecessors - the 2016 Battle at Bristol. The Sept. 10 game pits Berry's Volunteers against the Virginia Tech Hokies in a game expected to draw more than 150,000 fans and shatter NCAA attendance records.
Freshman cornerback Greg Stroman has played in six games for the Hokies this season, primarily serving as Virginia Tech's main punt returner.
The 6-foot, 164 pound freshman has 24 punt returns totaling 192 yards to his credit in 2014, landing him atop the ACC punt return yards list and fourth on the NCAA punt returns list. Stroman has also seen some playing time on the defensive side of the ball after an injury to Brandon Facyson reconfigured Virginia Tech's depth chart.
As the Bristow, Va. native continues to develop under the tutelage of "Defensive Back U" Secondary Coach Torrian Gray, he looks to figure prominently in Tech's defensive strategy for the Tennessee Volunteers offense in the upcoming Battle at Bristol. With an expected attendance of more than 150,000 fans, Bristol Motor Speedway hosts Stroman's Hokies in the unique, record-setting gridiron clash set for Sept. 10, 2016.