Aggie QB looks familiar

The last time Tennessee went to the Cotton Bowl in 2001, the Vol defense was shredded by a versatile Kansas State quarterback named Jonathan Beasley. When the Big Orange returns to Dallas this New Year's Day, it'll face a virtual clone in Texas A&M's Reggie McNeal.

First, a history lesson: The elusive Beasley opened the scoring in the 2001 Cotton Bowl with a 14-yard touchdown run. He then tacked on TD passes of 56 and 10 yards to Quincy Morgan. Beasley finished with 210 passing yards, a 35-21 victory and the game's MVP award.

McNeal may be the most athletic QB the Vols have faced since that time. The 6-foot-2, 206-pound junior threw for 2,550 yards and 13 TDs, while compiling a 139.90 passer-efficiency rating. He also ranked second among the Aggies in rushing with 700 yards, eight more TDs and a team-best 4.9 yards-per-carry average.

Asked when he could remember facing a quarterback as versatile as McNeal, Vol head man Phillip Fulmer conceded that it ''may have been the last Cotton Bowl.''

Defensive coordinator John Chavis remembers the difficulty his troops had stopping Beasley in 2001 and figures McNeal will pose the same problems in 2005.

''He is really fast ... SCARY fast,'' Chavis said. ''He can run and he throws the ball really well. He's a top-notch quarterback, no question about that.''

Asked if McNeal is the most versatile QB Tennessee has faced since Beasley, Chavis paused thoughtfully before responding:

''He could be. Everybody's going to that type of quarterback now. It's a difficult offense to defend because of the mutiplicity of it, then having a great athlete like that. He's probably as versatile as anybody we've seen.''

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