Clear sailing

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A lot of folks see Cameron Clear eventually making his mark at Tennessee as a left tackle. Cameron Clear is not among these folks.

Despite a massive 6-foot-6 frame that seems destined to protect quarterbacks' blind sides someday, Clear has absolutely no desire to switch from tight end to offensive tackle. He hears the rampant speculation that he is too big to play tight end but is determined to prove it wrong.

"It just motivates me," he said following Saturday's spring practice at Haslam Field. "When people tell me I can't do something, I just want to prove 'em wrong. It's very motivating."

Clear caught 26 passes for 412 yards as a junior and 18 passes for 250 yards as a senior at Memphis Central High School. Still, Scout ranked him No. 9 nationally among offensive tackle prospects, and other recruiting services also dismissed his potential as a tight end.

"I feel as if 'Just give me a chance and I'll show you what I can do at tight end,'" he said. "I keep my weight pretty good."

If he ever tips the scales at 300 pounds, Clear is almost certain to slide inside to tackle. Though listed at 283 in the spring football guide, he says he's nowhere near that heavy.

"Right now I'm about 271, 272," he said, "and I feel great."

He feels great, physically and mentally. The same could not be said last September. When he barely left the sidelines in Games 1 and 2, he complained to the coaches.

"After the first two games I was very frustrated," he recalled. "I came from playing every snap (in high school) to playing two or three snaps (in college). I had a talk with my dad and a couple of the coaches. They told me to stick with it and stay focused, then it just came natural."

Tennessee's head coach said Clear's slow start was no surprise to the Vol staff.

"He was really raw, and playing tight end in a pro-style offense is tough," Derek Dooley said. "It's asking a lot. I think it's a little harder for a guy like that. For a runner, a receiver or a corner, it's a little more (about) natural ability."

Clear wound up catching just one four-yard pass in 2011 but he played significant snaps in November, even starting the final two games as Tennessee opened in a two-tight end set.

"He did about what we thought he would," Dooley said. "By the end of the season he was our second tight end and getting about 35 snaps a game, so he played a lot."

Clear should play even more this season. He has the tools to be an All-SEC tight end someday.

"I think he's everything we thought he would be," Dooley said. "He's a rare combination of size, speed and athleticism for that position. He's incredibly intelligent, excellent makeup, good character. It's just a matter of experience."

Also an outstanding basketball player in high school, Clear admits toying with the idea of playing both sports at the college level.

"Coming in as a freshman, I didn't think I'd be able to do it," he said. "Not playing a lot, I thought I'd have to focus on adjusting to college football.

"I think about it a lot. I talked to (basketball) coach (Cuonzo) Martin, and I still feel as if I can play both, but it will take a lot of hard work."

Asked how he would react if Clear asked to devote part of the year to hoops, Dooley grinned, then replied:

"I'm going to show him the film and say, 'You ain't good enough to play basketball.' If that doesn't work, I'm going to tell Cuonzo, 'Help me out on this one, Dog. We need Cam full-time.'"

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