Wilhoit is 'Mr. Consistent'

If James Wilhoit could play every game against the Florida Gators, he undoubtedly would be a first-team All-American. Tennessee's senior place-kicker probably deserves to be a second-team All-American as it is.

Wilhoit nailed a career-long 51-yard field goal that helped the Vols beat Florida 24-10 at Gainesville in 2003. He banged home a dramatic 50-yarder with six seconds left to cap a thrilling 30-28 victory at Knoxville in 2004. He matched his career best with another 51-yarder in Saturday night's heart-breaking 21-20 loss to the Gators at Neyland Stadium.

Clutch players make the big plays in the big games, and Wilhoit has established himself as a clutch player by consistently making big kicks against Tennessee's biggest rival.

Of course, James Wilhoit has been remarkably accurate against EVERY foe the past two years. He nailed 14 of 19 field-goal attempts in 2005 and has made his first three of 2006. Counting a hot finish in '05, Wilhoit has connected on 11 field-goal tries in a row and 14 of his last 15.

"James has been Mr. Consistent," head coach Phillip Fulmer said, adding that Wilhoit also hit a bloop kickoff from midfield following a penalty against Florida that was "just what we wanted."

The high-arching kick was fielded by Brandon James at the goal line, and he immediately was swarmed under at Florida's 8-yard line.

For the year, Wilhoit has put 11 of 16 kickoffs in the end zone with eight downed for touchbacks. Moments after nailing his 51-yard field goal vs. Florida, however, he uncharacteristically booted the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, giving the Gators possession at their 35-yard line.

"He didn't hit the kickoff particularly well after the long field goal," Fulmer noted. "I don't know if he was excited or what. But I'm really proud of James."

Fulmer also is proud of sophomore Britton Colquitt, who averaged 48.2 yards per punt against the Gators. Unfortunately for Tennessee, the two kickers are just about the only bright spots in special-teams play this fall.

"I'm happy with the punter and kicker," Fulmer said. "Other than that, we've got some significant strides to make in our kicking game."

The Vol coverage team looked almost comically inept on an 85-yard punt return touchdown by James in the third quarter Saturday night, although most of the runback was nullified by an illegal-block-in-the-back penalty.

"Our tackling has got to be addressed," Fulmer said.


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