Matt's still No. 1

Tennessee has defensive tackles who are more talented. The Vols have defensive tackles who are more heralded. The Big Orange has defensive tackles who are bigger and faster. But they aren't running first-team.

Matt McGlothlin is running first-team ahead of bigger, faster, more talented and more heralded players because he simply is more effective. The 6-0, 300-pounder may lack imposing size and speed but he's tough as a pine knot and he understands how to use leverage and technique.

"I've really started playing better with my hands," the fifth-year senior from Richlands, Va., says. "That's something I've really worked on."

Another advantage McGlothlin has over UT's younger tackles is experience. He understands how much effort is required to play at the Southeastern Conference level.

"It's a lot of hard work," he says. "You've got to play with a lot of intensity to play here … A LOT of intensity."

Being Tennessee's shortest tackle has its disadvantages but also its advantages.

"If you're undersized, you have to be extra aggressive," he says. "But it helps you in pad leverage. The big guys like John Henderson and Albert Haynesworth (both 6-feet-6) had to work really hard to keep their pad level down. Guys like me and Jesse (Mahelona) … we're already short, so it gives us an extra edge in leverage. Still, you have to be extra aggressive and quick to make use of the leverage."

Minus three of four starters from 2005, Tennessee's defensive front is considered a possible problem area heading into the 2006 season. McGlothlin tends to disagree with that assessment.

"I think we have a chance to really be good; I really do," he says. "J.T. Mapu, for a guy who hasn't done anything in two years, looks really good. Justin (Harrell) always looks good. A bunch of the boys look good."

Although the defense has six new starters in the front seven, McGlothlin isn't worried. He figures coordinator John Chavis and line coach Dan Brooks will have the Vols ready for action when Cal rolls into town Saturday for the season opener.

"Shoot, we've got Coach Chavis and Coach Brooks working with us," McGlothlin says. "We'll be fine. They don't accept anything but all-out effort."

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