''I think it's important,'' Wells said. Then, grinning ruefully, he added: ''Hopefully, you never have to push a 545-pound guy OFF of you.''
Turning serious, Wells conceded that weight conditioning is a vital part of offseason conditioning. That's why he has become a ''workout warrior'' during his college career.
''The endurance is more of a factor as you do more reps with more weight,'' he said. ''It's important to be strong in there (trenches), so you can handle whoever's across from you.''
Wells holds a best of 375 pounds in the power clean, a figure which ranks best-ever among UT offensive linemen and second-best overall to former Vol defensive end Omari Hand (380).
Wells still has his entire senior year to take aim at Hand's record but he isn't optimistic about the quest. ''I don't think I'll ever see that (level) again,'' he said. ''You do that when you're in the zone, and that's rare.'' Because of a rash of injuries among the guards and inconsistency throughout the line, Tennessee's offensive front struggled last year. Wells is confident that the blocking wall will be better in 2003. ''I think we're going to have a great year, getting everybody back from the injury bug,'' he said. ''Everybody knows we can't take the same approach we had last season. Jeff Smith (a former Vol lineman) has worked with us this summer and we've watched film of last season to make some corrections.''
Tennessee has a lot of mistakes to correct to make based on its slipshod play last time out. The Vols played perhaps their worst game of the Phil Fulmer era in a 30-3 Peach Bowl loss to Maryland. Wells is eager to get the bitter taste of that setback out of his mouth.
''I'm VERY ready,'' he said. ''A lot of people don't have a lot of confidence in our team after last season. Losing the guys we lost, people say, 'Who's there?'
''We have a lot of doubters out there who don't think we're going to have a good year but everybody on our team thinks we've got a championship-caliber team. Going out and having a strong game against Fresno is going to get the point across.''