Can UT catch jackrabbit?

Rushing most quarterbacks is like zeroing in on a statue; tall and stationary, they're easy targets. Rushing Texas A&M quarterback Reggie McNeal is more like zeroing in on a jackrabbit -- super-quick and likely to change direction at any time.

That puts tremendous pressure on Tennessee's defensive ends, who will be entrusted with both rushing AND containing the elusive Mr. McNeal when the Vols and Aggies tee it up Jan. 1 in the Cotton Bowl.

''We know it's going to be a great challenge,'' Tennessee's Jason Hall said recently. ''He's the real deal. He's got real good speed and he can really get out (outside) on you.''

That forces a defensive end to be a little more cautious on his pass rush, lest he be left grasping air while McNeal picks his way downfield.

''It definitely makes you read your keys a little more, play with a little more discipline,'' Hall said. ''You're not going to take as many chances because if you take a chance and let him break contain, he can really get out on you.''

None of the opposing quarterbacks Tennessee faced during the 2004 season had the speed and elusiveness of McNeal. Still, the Vol defense faced someone very, very similar routinely in practice ... freshman quarterback Brent Schaeffer. That should help considerably in preparing for McNeal.

''It's DEFINITELY a benefit we haven't had in previous years -- facing a running quarterback (Schaeffer) in practice,'' Hall said. ''McNeal's probably a little bit bigger than Brent. I'm not sure he's any faster but he's a proven guy. He's done it in games all year long.

''They're very similar. They're Michael Vick-type guys. McNeal can run or he can pull up and pass it 70 yards deep. He's a huge, huge challenge for us.''

Although McNeal is exceptional at running the option attack, Hall doesn't foresee the Aggies using a lot of option plays against the Vols.

''I don't expect to see a ton of option,'' he said. ''We've done a good job playing the option all year long. That is one of their base packages, so I expect to see some. But if we do a good job with it, I don't expect to see as much.''

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