Versatile senior Turk McBride will start Saturday's opener with California at left end. When the Golden Bears face obvious passing situations, however, McBride probably will slide inside and replace Matt McGlothlin at tackle. This will upgrade the Vol pass rush in two ways:
1. McBride (6-4, 275) is considerably taller and quicker than the 6-0, 300-pound McGlothlin.
2. Moving McBride inside enables the Vols to put a speed rusher – 6-3, 255-pound Robert Ayers, for instance – in his place at end.
Head coach Phillip Fulmer concedes that McBride could see considerable action at tackle on Saturday "particularly in passing situations, to get our best pass rushers on the field. He could play there quite a bit, depending on what we're getting done."
McBride started three games at tackle and one at end in 2004. He saw backup action at both positions in 2005, then worked almost exclusively at end last spring and this preseason.
"He's really not practiced too much at tackle," Fulmer noted. "He's been mostly at end. He's played extremely well at defensive end. The good thing about it is, he's played inside and knows what to do. He could move in there real quickly if he needs to."
Justin Harrell, whose emergence into an all-star tackle reduced McBride to reserve status last fall, calls his teammate "just a great player. The fact he can play the end position AND the tackle position just shows what kind of athlete he is. Having him on the field is a plus for us, no matter where he is. He's an impact player, no matter where he lines up."
McBride is roughly 15 pounds bigger than UT's other ends, and that heft enables him to provide excellent run support. So, what does he provide when he moves inside to tackle?
"He brings the speed aspect," Harrell said. "Guys like me, McGlothlin and J.T. Mapu weigh about 300 pounds; we're slower guys who pressure (a blocker). Then you bring in someone with Turk's quickness and moves and (the blocker) is expecting a bull rush; he's not ready for Turk's quickness.
"He's a good change of pace. When you go from a bull-rush guy to a guy with speed and moves it can be a good weapon."
How much time McBride plays at tackle this fall will depend in part on the deveopment of Mapu, Demonte Bolden and Dan Williams. Mapu is rebuilding his stamina following a two-year Mormon mission. Bolden and Williams are talented guys who have not yet shown enough commitment to suit Fulmer.
The head man said he hopes to use Mapu "20 to 30 plays" versus Cal, adding: "That probably would be a real plus for us.
"I want to play five (tackles) but I'm not going to put a guy out there who doesn't know how to practice and doesn't understand the intensity of a football game like this. Dan Williams and Demonte Bolden have another level they've absolutely got to reach."