WRs didn't put out in '05

If you were a Tennessee coach last year, you hated to hear it. If you were a Tennessee player, you hated to hear it. If you were a Tennessee fan, you hated to hear it.

But Robert Meachem painted a picture that said a lot about why the Vols were 5-6 last season.

Meachem said the receivers made big strides during spring practice. Why?

``Because our effort is there now,'' Meachem said. ``A lot of times, we didn't have as much effort as we do now.''

That's a shot at the former receivers coach. That's a shot at the former offensive coordinator. And that's a shot at the current head coach, Phillip Fulmer.

It's one thing to lose. It's another when you lose because you're not trying hard enough.

Why the lack of effort?

``Honestly, I can't tell you,'' said Meachem, who caught a 70-yard touchdown pass during Saturday's Orange and White game. ``We were ranked No.3 in the nation (in the preseason polls last year) and I think we thought it was going to be given to us. We thought it was going to be easy.''

It wasn't. And the Vols paid the price. They understand now that you have to pay the price to be successful. That was hammered home time and again by offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe.

It was hammered home early, and quarterback Erik Ainge wasn't sure how to handle it.

``The first few times we were out there (at practice),'' Ainge said, ``I thought he was crazy. That's just because we'd gotten comfortable as an offense in practice. He brought a whole new meaning to how to work. He's gone from crazy to good crazy. He's crazy but in a good way. It's definitely going to help us out a lot.''

Ainge agreed with Meachem's assessment that the receivers are working harder, but he took it a step farther.

``I'd say that about every offensive position,'' Ainge said. ``We thought we knew how to work and how to practice last year, but we didn't. We're learning it now.''

The hard work has paid dividends in the passing game. Ainge said he has built a chemistry with Meachem, in part because they've had so many reps with the first team.

``I think the biggest thing right now with me and Meachem is we're having fun again,'' Ainge said. ``We're just out there running around like it's the backyard, throwing the ball up, just having a good time.''

Meachem felt that way Saturday.

``My Mom told me I had a blessing coming today and today was just my day,'' Meachem said. ``I just had fun. It felt good having a long run like that. I haven't had a long run in a long time.''

It was the kind of big play missing most of last season. It's the kind of big play Cutcliffe is seeking for this season.

During the offseason, Cutcliffe is seeking something else – a new and improved work ethic.

``The biggest issue was learning how to work, learning expectations,'' Cutcliffe said. ``We're closer. They really started to understand that every little detail counts.''

And what they do in the summer months will count, also. He's hoping the lessons learned in March and April will carry over.

``I think our defensive guys understood that,'' Cutcliffe said. ``I think our guys on offense have a picture of that. It's attention to detail. It's work ethic.

``Don't go practice something the wrong way. If you do that for two, three months, then we've got trouble on our hands.''


J.T. Mapu, a former starter on the Tennessee defensive line, hopes to return to Knoxville in July after completing a two-year Morman mission.

Mapu was recently transferred from the Houston area to Sulphur, La. He will return to Hawaii July 13, spend some time with his family, then fly to Knoxville. He is not in football playing shape and might redshirt, his father said Saturday.

However, UT might need Mapu to play immediately, considering the Vols aren't blessed with a lot of depth at tackle.

Mapu's last season at UT was 2003, when he had 26 tackles, 4.5 behind the line, two sacks and four quarterback pressures. He has two years of eligibility remaining.

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