Democracy in action

Sometimes Vol linebacker Kevin Simon sounds more like a political science major than a football player: When he discusses filling the leadership void left by the departure of 2004 captain Kevin Burnett, for instance.

''Instead of one or two people being a dictatorship,'' Simon said, ''it's going to be like a democracy.''

Nice analogy. What exactly does that mean?

''We've got so many guys that have played, everyone's going to have to chip in and be a leader,'' Simon explained. ''Our leadership this year is going to be stronger because we've all spent a lot of time together. A lot of guys have already played a lot of football.''

Although Burnett was a terrific leader as an individual, Simon thinks the leadership-by-committee approach can work just as well, if not better.

''Everyone's going to have a hand in what we're doing,'' he said. ''When you have a strong unit like that, that's when you're going to have your best teams.''

Asked who he views as potential leaders for 2005, Simon replied: ''Jesse Mahelona, Justin Harrell, Omar Gaither, Jason Mitchell, Parys Haralson, Jason Allen. All of those guys bring leadership qualities to the table and all of them are looked at as good players, as well as leaders.''

One name noticeably missing from that list was Simon's. What about him?

''You could probably throw me in there as well,'' he said with a laugh. ''All of those guys can play a little bit of football. Plus, when push comes to shove, you know they're going to be right by your side ready to get it done on the field.

With fellow linebacker Burnett out of eligibility, Simon may be asked to become more vocal. That's fine with him.

''If something needs to be said, I'm going to say it,'' he vowed. ''I don't really bite my tongue. The whole chemistry of the team might change because we've got a lot of guys that have played a lot of football.

''When somebody messes up, you won't need to get in their face because they already know they've messed up. You just encourage 'em, pat 'em on the butt and say, 'Look, we're going to get 'em next time.' ''

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