LBs have 'crazy talent'

Kevin Simon started 29 games for Tennessee, Jason Mitchell 26 and Omar Gaither 22. Now that all three 2005 first-teamers are out of eligibility, some people are concerned that the Vol linebacker corps will slip noticeably in 2006.

Turk McBride is not one of those people. The senior defensive end has tremendous confidence in returning ‘backers such as Marvin Mitchell, Jerod Mayo, Ryan Karl, Rico McCoy, Ellix Wilson and Adam Myers-White.

"They have crazy talent," he said. "They have the work ethic. They have the will to be better. The only thing they lack is experience."

The Vols also lack experience in the front four, where All-America candidate Justin Harrell is the only returning starter now that Jesse Mahelona, Parys Haralson and Jason Hall have departed. McBride will fill one of those vacancies. Vying for the other two spots are Matt McGlothlin, Demonte Bolden, J.T. Mapu, Robert Ayers, Antonio Reynolds, Xavier Mitchell and Walter Fisher.

As is the case at linebacker, the front four returnees lack experience but not talent or determination. That's why McBride believes the Vol front seven is going to be a lot better than most fans think.

"I believe they're going to be very surprised," he said. "Even though we lost some great players, the people that were behind them are just as good. I believe the drop-off's not going to be that much."

McBride looms as one of the keys to the front seven because he can play end or tackle. At present he and Reynolds are penciled in as first-team ends, with McGlothlin and Harrell the first-team tackles. If McGlothlin struggles or if one of the other ends blossoms, however, McBride could move back to tackle.

Does he prefer one position over the other?

"Not really," McBride said. "As long as I'm on the defensive line somewhere I'm going to be happy. I like tackle because I feel I can use my quickness a little bit more. At end I can show my strength. If I can play both in one game, obviously, I'm excited about that."

Isn't switching from one position to the other tough?

"I wouldn't say tough but it's different," he replied. "At defensive tackle you have to make moves really quick, but at end you have to step up your moves even more. I know what I'm doing at both of ‘em, so it's not really tough."

Whatever position he plays, Turk McBride is looking forward to a big senior season.

"I'm studying really hard," he said. "This is going to be my time now to do what I do."

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