Juniors among captains ... again

The Tennessee football program's search for leadership has dipped into the junior class for the second year in a row.

One year after Kevin Burnett and Michael Munoz were tabbed as junior captains for 2003, the Vols have voted junior cornerback Jason Allen and junior end Parys Haralson among the captains for 2004.

Burnett and Munoz were re-elected by their teammates for '04, making them the first Vols to serve back-to-back terms as captains since J.G. Lowe turned the trick in 1924-25. Joining Burnett, Munoz, Allen and Haralson as 2004 captains are senior wideout Tony Brown and senior center Jason Respert.

''I'm very proud of our team for the vote of the 2004 captains,'' head coach Phillip Fulmer said. ''These six young men represent great character, work ethic and communication skills.

''They will be excellent leaders for the 2004 Tennessee football team and excellent examples for our program.''

For years, the captain roles were reserved exclusively for Vol seniors. As a result, some very deserving leaders such as Jason Witten (who bypassed his senior year for the NFL) never got to serve as team captain.

Here's a look at the 2004 captains:

Burnett: A toned-down version of Al Wilson, Burnett speaks his mind and doesn't care if he ruffles some feathers. And, like Wilson, he walks the walk and doesn't just talk the talk. He's a natural leader.

Munoz: Though less outspoken than Burnett, Munoz provides leadership by exhibiting intensity and toughness in practice and playing through nagging injuries.

Brown: He's somewhat reserved but Brown has worked very hard to make himself a quality pass catcher. He also has worked hard to elevate the young receivers around him. If only he could get through to James Banks ...

Respert: A surprising selection in that Respert started just one game in 2003. He's a very outgoing and likeable guy, however, and his teammates seem to feed off of his enthusiasm.

Allen: A cocky defensive back (Is there any other kind?), Allen's confidence is vital since he is the only returning starter in what will be a new-look Vol secondary. He also backs up his talk with the skill to be an All-SEC performer this fall.

Haralson: He seems very quiet off the field but he's a disruptive force on it. No Vol works harder than Parys. Coaches have to withhold him from some of the drills because he tends to overexert himself at times.

It's difficult to question any of these selections. From all appearances, the Vols did an excellent job in selecting worthy captains.

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