Simon's tackle total off

Kevin Simon doesn't appear to be a me-first kind of guy. So it seems out of character to hear him talk about getting ripped off when it comes to tackles.

Tennessee's senior middle linebacker was credited with 17 stops after three games. He said films, graded by defensive coordinator John Chavis, prove he had 33. That's a whopping difference of 16.

``They're killing me with this tackle stuff," Simon said after the 27-10 victory over Ole Miss. ``I don't know if you guys have been watching games, but I've been making more plays than that."

Simon laughs, but it's a laugh of disgust.

``They had me with five tackles after the Florida game," Simon said.

Chavis said Simon had 17.

``That's a 12-tackle difference," Simon said. ``What is going on? It seems like they've got other guys' tackles right. And they've never screwed me on tackles before."

Florida's state crew gave Tennessee defenders a total of two assists after the game, an absurd number. John Painter, UT's football sports information director, said that was later corrected to 21 assists and Simon's tackle total was boosted from five to 12. He was later given credit for 24 tackles after three games.

The press box crew gave him seven tackles against Ole Miss. Simon estimated he had about 10 or 12. As of 2004, Painter said the press box tackle stats are official.

``That makes no sense," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said.

Fulmer's right. It's easy to determine how many yards a back has gained or a quarterback has passed for, but it's almost impossible to gauge tackles -- solos and assists. That's why, for years, the official numbers came after grading film.

Of course, some coaches are more lenient with tackle totals, giving as many as four or five assists on a single play and padding individual totals by a significant amount to help their players get post-season honors.

Because of that discrepancy, the NCAA went to press box numbers. But that's not a good way of determining the numbers, either.

So why is it such a big deal to Simon?

``It's not a big deal," he said. ``Umm, it kind of is. It kind of is. It is because I've only played one (full) season (2003) since I've been here. I'm a senior this year. Its my last go-round. Whatever I do on the field this year will be my legacy at Tennessee.

``So if I did it, put it on paper. I'm out there busting my butt and I would like everyone to know it."

He laughs again.

``I think I've been having a pretty good season so far and should be up for Butkus consideration, All-American consideration, with the stats I've put up. But it's not going to happen if you don't have my stats right. And you've got two other guys (on UT's team) with more tackles then me when that's not the case."

Those two are Jason Allen and Omar Gaither.

In Simon's only full season, he registered 115 tackles. He'd like to put up more this season, but he won't reach that number if he's robbed of some stops.

Regardless of Simon's numbers, No. 2 is having a terrific year, Fulmer said.

``I think he's playing outstanding, extremely well," Fulmer said. ``He's playing physical, hard and fast, and making checks."

Simon is also playing all over the field. That's because he's improved so much in pass coverage.

``I feel like I'm running around well," Simon said. ``I'm a lot better in coverage than I ever have been, even better than my sophomore season when I played strong side linebacker. "I'm starting to get a little more aggressive, like I need to be. I feel like I'll come into my own in the next couple of weeks."

One NFL scout who recently graded Tennessee's players had more than a dozen on his list -- players he felt could be drafted or signed as free agents.

His No. 1 player among the Vols … Kevin Simon.

That's a number more important that his tackle totals.


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