Simon shows no rust

After knee and ankle injuries limited him to just four football games in his first two college seasons, Tennessee linebacker Kevin Simon was thrilled to be back on the field in last Saturday's opener against Fresno State.

And Vol head man Phillip Fulmer was just as thrilled with Simon's performance -- a team-high 10 tackles, a forced fumble and half a sack.

''He was all over the place,'' Fulmer said, grinning broadly. ''If he didn't make the tackle, he was right there to make the tackle.''

That's amazing, considering that Simon missed the last nine games of the 2002 season and all of spring practice with a fractured ankle.

''My ankle felt great on Saturday,'' Simon said. ''I was surprised by how good it did feel. It felt normal almost. It was only standing around on the sidelines that I could feel it. When I was out there running around, I couldn't feel it at all.''

Although he said he played ''a pretty good game'' vs. Fresno, Simon isn't satisfied.

''I need to get better,'' he said. ''This was something I can build on and be better next week, then be better the next week. The game I played this past Saturday, I don't want to be playing that same game against Auburn and Miami. I want to be a much better player by then.''

After playing just 36 snaps vs. Fresno, Simon hopes to be more active this weekend vs. Marshall. He figures he spent enough time watching from the sidelines last fall.

''I want to play the whole game ... as many snaps as I can play,'' he said. ''I could've went 70 plays if they'd needed me. But we had so many three-and-outs last week; that's the reason I only got 36 snaps.''

Simon played with remarkable energy and determination. Clearly, his zest for the game is still strong.

''It was fun,'' he said. ''It was good to be back with my teammates, doing what I love to do.''

After playing middle linebacker in high school and weakside linebacker last fall, Simon is playing strongside linebacker this fall. How's he adjusting?

''I feel a little better about it because I'm getting comfortable with it,'' he said of the move to strongside. ''There's still a lot of stuff I need to recognize quicker.''

Simon was a wrestler in high school, and the leverage he learned on the mat seemed to come in handy while body-slamming Fresno ballcarriers last Saturday. Did his wrestling background help?

''It can't hurt,'' he said.

Tennessee limited Fresno to minus-1 yard rushing and 117 total yards -- leading the NCAA in both categories. The question arises: How good can this Vol stop unit become?

''There's no limit to how good we can be,'' Simon said.


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