False alarm: Harrell OK

The static on my radio was so bad that I only heard the name Justin Harrell, followed by some crackling, followed by the word surgery. "Uh-oh," I thought, imagining the worst. "There goes the season."

Quickly booting up my computer, I hurriedly located an email from the University of Tennessee sports information office. Fortunately for the Vol football program, Harrell's surgery was not to repair a torn ACL or a broken ankle. It was a simple tonsillectomy. The senior defensive tackle underwent surgery Tuesday at UT Medical Center and was released shortly thereafter.

The news release included a statement from Vol trainer Jason McVeigh noting that "Everything went well and we expect a full recovery."

Justin Harrell may be swallowing harder these days but Tennessee fans are breathing easier. Here's why:

One … Harrell is an outstanding football player who is capable of being All-America in 2006.

Two … Harrell is the only returning starter from UT's 2005 front four. Ends Parys Haralson and Jason Hall were seniors, as was tackle Jesse Mahelona.

Three … counting Tony McDaniel, who turned pro rather than return for his senior year in 2006, the loss of Harrell would've taken away three of Tennessee's top four defensive tackles.

Finally … the Vols already lost six members of their 2005 front seven. A major surgery on Harrell would've made it a clean sweep. John Chavis is an excellent defensive coordinator but replacing an entire front seven without a significant drop-off is asking for a miracle.

Guess I need to buy a better radio, huh?

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