It's doubtful that anybody on the Auburn team will be more excited about the matchup between the Tigers and Vols than sophomore linebacker Kevin Sears, who will be lined up not far from his "little" brother, 6-4, 315-pound Tennessee offensive tackle Arron Sears.
"I am just fired up and ready to play," Auburn's Sears says. "I have never had a chance to play against my brother, not even in practice in high school. It is something I am looking forward to."
The UT offensive line is improved significantly from 2003 and the play of true sophomore Sears is one of the reasons. There is a high probability that the brothers will run into each other more than just a few times on the field Saturday night. "There will be a lot of opportunities," Kevin says. "We will both be on the strongside of the ball so he will have a lot of opportunities to try to block me."
Kevin, who finished a year ahead of Arron at Russellville High, says he plans to talk to Arron on the phone this week. During the season, they don't chat much, he notes."We talk every once in a while, but most of the time he is in classes or on the football field and I am the same way." He notes that their conversations are more about family and friends instead of football.
Kevin, who was also basketball standout at Russellville High, committed to Auburn early and was not interested in playing at Tennessee. He says that he knew early in the recruiting process that Auburn is where he wanted to be.
The AU linebacker notes that he stayed out of the recruiting process with his brother. "I just kind of looked at it like he is a grown man and grown men make their own decisions and that is what he did," Kevin says. "I didn't really have that much influence on him going to Tennessee or coming to Auburn."
The Auburn sophomore notes that his parents go to one of their sons' games each week. They make a decision on where to go based on the location and quality of the contest. "They just love the game and will be cheering for both of their sons," Sears notes.
Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville says that Sears has performed well as he has stepped into a starting role at the strongside linebacker spot played last season by Karlos Dansby. Sears says that watching the current NFL rookie was a good learning experience. "I have tried to make a lot of progress," Sears says. "I played behind Karlos and that was a big influence to help me learn the game quicker."
Tuberville says the Tigers wanted to sign the younger brother, too. "We recruited Arron real hard," he says. "Kevin had been here the year before and has turned out to be a good player. Arron played some last year against us if I am not mistaken. He is a very good offensive lineman. We are obviously disappointed we didn't get him. We are really happy to have Kevin. He is going to turn out to be a great team leader for us."
Tuberville says that it is obvious that Kevin came from a competitive background. The linebacker confirms that, noting, "Every day we were outside playing basketball or just throwing the football around. We were always competitive and getting into it."
Based on their years of competition against one another, Kevin has a strong opinion on who is the top athlete in the family. "I am the better athlete," he says matter of factly.
Sears will try to use his athletic ability to harass Tennessee's freshman quarterbacks who split time running the offense. Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer have been impressive through three games. "It is very important that we make them make mistakes and make quick decisions, which are hard on freshmen quarterbacks," Sears says.
Kickoff time is 6:45 p.m. CDT and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN.