Vols hope to bury past

If Vol quarterback Casey Clausen could pick two words he'd never have to hear again, they probably would be LAST YEAR. Every time he gives an interview, someone shoves a tape recorder in his face and asks 'Why did the Vol offense look so bad LAST YEAR? Why did Tennessee lose five games LAST YEAR? What did the players learn from LAST YEAR?'

After patiently answering these questions for months, Clausen's patience is wearing thin.

''Last year's done,'' he said recently. ''We don't bring up last year. The Peach Bowl sums up the whole season. A lot of guys didn't get up for that game, and Maryland was all hyped up and ready to play us.

''For whatever reason, we weren't excited about playing Maryland and being in the Peach Bowl. That game basically summed up the whole year. Nothing went right for us last year. Hopefully, we'll have some luck this year.''

Ironically enough, check out Clausen's answer to the next question he was asked ... regarding the fact Tennessee has its lowest preseason ranking since 1992.

''Look at last year,'' he replied. ''We were ranked in the top five but that was because of the season we had my sophomore year. Honestly, we didn't have the talent going into my junior year that we had going into my sophomore year. The rankings are based on what you did the previoius year.

''We definitely are not respected a whole lot across the country right now. When you're 8-5, you're not going to get respect from a whole lot of people. People start questioning the coaches and questioning the players. That definitely lights a fire in me and should in my teammates.''

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