Turning pro?

He posted career highs in receptions (67), receiving touchdowns (11) and yards per catch (18.9) in 2006. He also broke the school record for single-season receiving yards (1,265). Now he must decide: Turn pro or return for his senior year?

Tennessee receiver Robert Meachem is facing that difficult decision this December, just as Volunteer teammate Arron Sears did last December.

Sears mulled his options at length 12 months ago, then decided to return for 2006. With the Big Orange 9-3 and headed for a Jan. 1 Outback Bowl date with Penn State, he's awfully glad he did.

"That was one of the best decisions I ever made," said Sears, a 6-4, 320-pound senior offensive tackle from Russellville, Ala. "I usually don't look back on any decision I've ever made, and this one I won't look back on. But I'm glad I came back. We didn't go undefeated but we still had a great year."

Head coach Phillip Fulmer and offensive line coach Greg Adkins are glad he came back, too. Sears anchored a youthful offensive line that might have been mediocre without him.

Sears says his season highlight was helping Tennessee hang 37 second-half points on Georgia in a 51-33 win, despite missing practice all week with an ankle injury. His toughness and tenacity helped him earn recognition on several post-season All-America teams.

Sears was projected to be a second- to third-round pick had he turned pro following his junior year. He hasn't heard any projections yet for the 2007 NFL Draft but figures a good senior season has improved his stock.

"Everybody's hoping to go first round," he said, adding: "I'd like to be able to provide for my family."


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