Confident gridders

Despite a 5-6 record in 2005, Tennessee's football players believe they have a shot at the SEC championship and a lofty national ranking in the season to come.

"Oh, man, next year I think we can be great," defensive lineman Turk McBride said recently. "The team chemistry we have right now is just unbelievable."

He believes the adversity the 2005 squad endured will provide extra incentive for the 2006 Vols.

"Last year we didn't do so well," McBride noted. "Everybody knows what that feeling was last year and nobody's wanting to feel like that this year. I can tell from workouts that we're going to do great things."

Fullback Cory Anderson agrees. The offense was a major disappointment in 2005 but he expects the attack unit to bounce back in a big way next fall.

"We've got a bunch of talent on our team," he said. "We've just got to make some plays. It was real frustrating last season, knowing we had players who could plays but we just didn't make ‘em. We just have to work harder and make some plays this year."

Defensive tackle Justin Harrell could've been a first-day pick in the NFL Draft but he chose to return for his senior season with the Vols. He also helped convince some of the other seniors to stick around.

"We all told each other that if we all came back, look at what the team could have," he said. "We have a lot of potential this year. A lot of people that played a lot are going to be back. It's exciting to come back to this team, knowing all these other guys are going to be with me and all these young guys are going to be hungry."

Still, the Vols are coming off a losing season. How much of a turnaround can they make in one year?

"We can make a great turnaround," Harrell said. "We've got a lot of guys who have played a lot in the past. It's not like we're rebuilding. We've got some great players coming back. We've got a great foundation."

Like McBride, Harrell believes the disappointments of 2005 will provide a great deal of motivation for the 2006 Vols.

"I think the season we had last year has put a lot more hunger in everybody," he said. "We're real anxious to get out there and work hard."

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