Wilhoit's pumped about 2004

One year ago, James Wilhoit was a redshirt freshman dealing with a year of rust and a few concerns about his future as a collegiate placekicker. Suffice to say, things are a lot different this spring.

After nailing 12 of his last 13 regular-season field goal tries for Tennessee last fall, he heads into the 2004 season as a proven commodity, brimming with confidence.

''I had never gone through a year of not kicking (as he did in 2002),'' Wilhoit said. ''I think that was the biggest thing -- just getting back in those game situations and getting used to the battles. After having some success at the end of the year, I'm definitely thinking a lot more positive thoughts than I was before the season.''

Hampered by the rust and a pulled groin, Wilhoit made just one of his first four field goal tries and five of his first 10 in 2003. He fought through that adversity, however, and finished with a flourish.

''I got really frustrated at the start of the season because I wanted to do so well,'' he said. ''I figured out that my priorities weren't in order ... that I shouldn't be getting so upset if I'm not kicking so well. That's not the end of the world. God's more important. There are a lot of things that are more important than kicking.

''I think that (slump) was something that was meant to happen because it helped me a lot during the season. With the struggles I had at the beginning of the season, I figured if I could overcome those, I could overcome anything.''

Given the strong finish he had in 2003, Wilhoit hasn't left himself much room for improvement in 2004. He sees one area that could be upgraded, though.

''It's just getting into a rhythm early, starting off quick,'' he said. ''Instead of starting off one-for-four, I want to start four-for-four.''

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