Hall's on the ball

As a returning All-SEC performer and team captain, Parys Haralson is a lock to start at one of Tennessee's defensive end positions this year. Surprisingly enough, the end opposite Haralson is virtually locked up, as well.

After backing up Constantin Ritzmann in 2003 and Karlton Neal in 2004, Jason Hall is finally getting his chance to be the first-teamer, and he's making the most of the opportunity. The 6-3, 260-pound senior from Chattanooga McCallie is playing so well, in fact, that he has all but clinched the spot opposite Haralson.

"Jason Hall's got a lot of experience," says Steve Caldwell, who oversees UT's ends. "He's playing very well, and he's one of those kids that doesn't do very many things wrong."

Hall won't get the job by default, however, because Tennessee has a lot of young talent at end. Sophomore Antonio Reynolds and redshirt freshman Robert Ayers are converted linebackers with great speed off the edge. Sophomore Xavier Mitchell is a budding star and fellow soph Jared Hostetter is as tough an hombre as the Vols have. Both Mitchell and Hostetter have been slowed by injuries.

Reynolds, a 6-3, 250-pounder from Akron, Ohio, appears to be Hall's chief competition for first-team consideration.

"Antonio is learning real well," Caldwell says. "He put on about 15 pounds since last fall. He's a lot stronger and doing a lot better. He might be a better athlete than Jason but when it comes down to it, I know where Jason Hall's going to be. Antonio's got a lot of work to do to get there but I'm really proud of where he's at."

Caldwell also likes what he's seen of Ayers, Mitchell and Hostetter this preseason.

"Robert Ayers has had a great fall," the Vol aide says, "and on the other side it's great to have Xavier Mitchell and Hostetter back after missing spring practice."

Head coach Phillip Fulmer has been pumping up reserve tackle Turk McBride, routinely suggesting he could be a candidate to start at end. That development doesn't appear imminent, however.

"We haven't worked Turk there yet," Caldwell said, "but he's started there and he knows the scheme, so we know he can play out there."

Whether he helps at end or plays exclusively at tackle, McBride appears to be one of Tennessee's most dynamic defensive linemen. As a result, he's sure to see plenty of action somewhere in the front four.

"Later on, we'll package some stuff," Caldwell says. "We'll get our best four guys on the field."

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