Allen pumped about '05

Tennessee is trying to ''close the deal'' with some of the top safety prospects in America this recruiting season, but none of them could possibly have the impact Jason Allen will by returning for his senior season.

Allen brings one thing none of the prep blue-chippers can offer -- experience at the collegiate level. He started at cornerback in 2003 and at safety in 2004. He also brings a tough-guy mentality, having led the SEC in tackes last fall. In addition, he brings leadership, having served as a captain during his junior year.

Best of all, Allen brings Tennessee one step closer to contending for the 2005 national title. That, ultimately, is why he returned.

''I have made the decision to stay here at the University of Tennessee another year,'' Allen said during a Thursday news conference. ''I felt like we're going to be definitely one of the best teams in the country. We can make it happen -- the SEC championship and the national championship.''

The Vols came close to the SEC championship in 2004, reaching the league title game before losing 38-28 to Auburn. Allen admitted that loss ''really bothered me.''

Yet, when head coach Phillip Fulmer asked if Allen was considering the NFL Draft, the player responded in the negative.

"We talked about it and I said `Coach, that's not even on my mind,' '' Allen reclled. ''I was thinking about winning the SEC championship, and when the time comes we'll talk about it. Once I decide to come back, it's all Tennessee, 110 percent.''

Allen said a week ago he planned to skip his senior year. Although he subsequently changed his mind, he conceded that the lure of the NFL Draft was strong, citing the millions of dollars to be made once he turns professional. Ultimately, though, the chance to be part of a special season at Tennessee in 2005 was even stronger.

''I'm not going to settle for anything less than the SEC championship and the national championship,'' he said. ''That's the type mentality I'm going to have, and the mentality like a virus I'm going to spread out with myself, the players, coaches, the University, and the whole state of Tennessee.

''That's something I know we can get done. We have the same vision and the same goals.''

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