Published April 10, 2011 - 4:43pm
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A day after a powerful storm left a path of destruction from the Great Midwest to the heart of the Southeast, I had an chance to speak with another powerhouse soon to be heading south from Kansas in the person of Tennessee signee, Maurice Couch.
The 6’2″ 295 pound monstrous defensive tackle, known by many simply as Big Mo, will be making his way to the University of Tennessee campus after graduating from Garden City Community College in Garden City, KS on May 14th.
Head Coach Derek Dooley made it clear on National Signing Day that the four junior college (JUCO) players signed by the Volunteers were brought in to make an immediate contribution to the program. Dooley is counting on the JUCO transfer to provide leadership for a young defensive unit, and Maurice Couch wouldn’t want it any other way.
The JUCO All-American comes to Tennessee as the nation’s number 2 rated junior college prospect and has three years to play out his remaining three years of eligibility after red-shirting his freshman season due to injury, but it took just one season of gridiron aggression at GCCC for some of the most prestigious programs in college football to take notice of the emerging defensive star. Couch’s impressive stats from the 2010 season at GCCC included 45 tackles, 12 tackles-for-loss, three quarterback sacks and a forced fumble.
The Sanford, FL native, who achieved a 5-star rating from 247sports, entertained offers from Southern Cal, Miami, Kansas, Georgia, Ole Miss and South Carolina, among others, before pledging his allegiance to the Big Orange. When asked why he chose Tennessee over the other programs, Couch said, “It was just unbelievable, the facilities, the coaches and players were just like a family.” Couch also credited the Vol For Life program started by Dooley and Andre Lott who currently heads up the program, as well as assistant coach Lance Thompson and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.
Couch’s enthusiasm and readiness to get to Tennessee is unmistakable and when asked about his goals for the upcoming season, the likable giant responding by saying, “Coach Dooley said he needed help up front, and that’s what I want to do, just help the defense make plays.”
Many observers feel that Couch will not only “help up front” but may have been Dooley’s most valuable aquisition in the 2011 signing class and has the potential to be an All-SEC defensive performer.
The Florida native grew up a fan of the Miami Hurricanes, idolizing such defensive stars as Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, but says he patterns his game after Chicago Bears’ star Julius Peppers. Like Peppers, Couch prides himself as not only a pass rusher, but a run stopper as well. With the loss of defensive ends Gerald Williams and Chris Walker, Couch is expected to provide immediate impact at defensive end in Justin Wilcox’s 3-4 scheme and defensive tackle in the 4-3 and hopes to one day play on Sundays. While preparing for a run at the NFL, Couch plans to pursue a degree in kinesiology while at Tennessee. The study of muscular movement, kinesiology, would appear to be a natural fit for Couch who seems to have a good grip on the need to complete his education.
For now, the easy going Couch is concentrating on his studies at GCCC and continues to stay in shape with a regimen of weight lifting and cardiovascular training. In his spare time Couch gets a little work in on PS3 with the latest gaming craze, Call of Duty – Black Ops, and keeping up with future Vol teammates, Byron Moore, Martaze Jackson, DeAnthony Arnett and Jaques Smith on his Twitter account.
Couch, who will become a father in just a few days, is quick to credit his fiancee, Stephanie Stapleton, as a steadying force who helped provide much-needed direction in his life after he was injured in his first season. The couple is expecting a baby daughter to add to the Volunteer family. While Maurice and Stephanie can’t wait for the arrival of Ahmya Tanay Couch, Tennessee fans are just as excited about seeing Big Mo hit the field for the Big Orange this fall.
Couch said he and his family will begin the 17-hour trek to Knoxville in late May and it is clear that he can’t wait to start his new life as a Volunteer. Fair warning has been given, the storm is coming. You better not sleep on the Couch. Get ready Volnation, Big Mo will be hear soon, ready to wreck havoc in the SEC.