Tough tackles

They may not turn out to be early first-round NFL Draft picks – as Charles McRae and Antone Davis were in 1991 – but Tennessee's current offensive tackles are doing a great job of keeping quarterback Erik Ainge upright and unharmed.

Senior Arron Sears and junior Eric Young were supposed to face a long night last Saturday against Georgia's heralded pass-rushing tandem of Quentin Moses and Charles Johnson. The Vol duo made sure Moses and Johnson were non-factors, however, as the Big Orange hammered the 10th-ranked Bulldogs 51-33.

Vol head coach Phillip Fulmer was pleasantly surprised by the superior work of Young and Sears.

"I think they did a great job, better than even I could've expected," Fulmer said.

Assuming Sears and Young would need help against Georgia's ballyhooed ends, Tennessee had its tight ends double-teaming Moses and Johnson early and had Ainge getting rid of the ball quickly.

Fulmer noted that UT "did a really good job early of chipping the ends some" and that Ainge helped by "getting the ball out quick."

As the game wore on, though, Sears and Young proved capable of holding their own without help from the tight end or the quarterback.

"They didn't have any bad sets," Fulmer noted. "With all that crowd noise, they handled it very, very well. That's a great credit to them and to Coach (Greg) Adkins for their preparation."

The 2006 Vol-Georgia game must've seemed like a replay of the 2004 meeting for Sears. Each time he spent the week leading up to the game missing practice while nursing an injury. Each time, though, he fought through the pain to play exceptionally well against the Dawgs on game day.

"There are a lot of parallels," Fulmer conceded, adding: "Arron's one of the best players I've coached at Tennessee at ANY position. He's a very tough young man and he showed again what kind of heart and commitment he has to being a good player and a leader on this team."

Even as Sears missed practice last week, Fulmer knew he'd answer the bell Saturday night in Athens. That's why the head man named Sears a game captain.

"He wasn't even practicing," Fulmer noted. When Vol aides questioned the decision, the head man replied, "He'll be there."

Sears WAS there and he played the way a senior leader is supposed to play. In the process, though, he suffered a toe injury that caused him to sit out UT's last possession of the Georgia game and will cost him some practice time this week.

"He actually got a sprained toe on the other foot," Fulmer said. "The last series he wasn't even in the game. We've got to let him get well this week, get ready for Alabama."

In addition to Sears' toe, receiver Jayson Swain has a sore ankle and defensive tackle Turk McBride has an injured hip. Swain's injury appears to be the most serious.

"We don't expect anything to come out of any of it," Fulmer said. "A receiver with an ankle injury is not a good thing but I think he'll be OK, especially with Alabama coming up."

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