Live from the Hill

As we approach our long-awaited debut of the season, there seems to be some interesting events that have popped up over the course of the last few days that will have a dramatic effect on opening day. We will take a look at a few of those a little more in-depth. Is Tennessee's season flushed if Kelley Washington can't play?

All summer we, as UT fans, have been anxiously awaiting the kickoff of this season. And why not. Look at the numerous things that have happened to give UT a great outlook for this looming season. Quarterback Casey Clausen is poised for a tremenous year. Tennessee's backfield is looking as good as ever. The linebacker corp has three-deep talent and looks like they could be the strongest in the conference. But hold the phone. During a practice session, wide receiver Kelley Washington goes down with a knee sprain, which translates to a minor tear. In the words of many "UT's season is lost!" That is probably a little too much over the top, but how bad will this hurt Tennessee? The answer is fairly simple. It won't hurt Tennessee. If they lose to Wyming or MTSU my answer will change, but for now, it does not hurt. There will be a last second effort to find a second receiver that will come in the next two weeks. The Vol coaches have had all spring and summer to get a guy to be the solid number 2. This will almost be a last chance for someone to emerge. Tennessee coaches feel like they have the talent and only need for one of the young guys to step up in gametime. The injury to Kelley Washington should be considered as a positive hidden in a negative, or something to that ilk.

Mr. Washington has taken an unfair amount of heat over the last few days for his stance on sitting out the first game against Wyoming and the choice it sit being his own. Kelley is almost a lock to be a first round pick in next April's NFL Draft. Barring lack of production, which is unlikely, or an injury, Washington should be a millionaire this time next year. I cannot blame him for electing to sit out. He has already proved himself to be a team player. He came to Tennessee without a scholarship, which he still doesn't have , and he remained for another year of football. I would have trouble passing up the kind of cash he did. Kelley is very bold and confident, but he is not the arrogant person that he is sterotyped as being. It is very easy to take what is written in print to heart. Just remember Kelley is not a bad person. He just really believes in himself and that sometimes can be conveyed in the wrong way.

When Washington was injured, coaches decided to move Rashad Baker over to split time between wide receiver and free safety. Baker, who has garnered all-conference honors in his first two seasons, has shown a great attitude and work ethic in this difficult time for him as Wyoming approaches. Rashad took a few minutes following practice this week to sit down and tell us how his life has gotten just a little more hectic since he started splitting time.
NG: Rashad how are you feeling after having a practice where you are having to run from defensive team drills, put on a green jersey and play offense, then you have to take off the green jersey and run all the way back to defense?
RB: I am very tired. The thing that is beating Mark and I to death is having to run from field to field and then put those jerseys on. That might be the hardest part of the rotating positions.
NG: Speaking of Mark, has the amount of work that you two are sharing, is that making you two closer?
RB: Yeah with both of us working at safety, receiver and punt returns, we are constantly comparing and contrasting our improvements. We work really well together and we can always help each other get better. Mark is a great athlete and is going to make some great things happen this year for the team.
NG: What has been the difference between being a high school star receiver and adjusting to what being a college football reveiver needs you to be?
RB: Oh man it is unreal! In high school you could really just use your athletic ability to out perform other guys and you can still do that to a certain extent here, but there is so much film time that goes into being a receiver. On defense you can rely on knowing what you have to do, but at receiver I have to be right there with Casey all the time or bad things will tend to happen.
NG: How have the receivers taken to you and Mark getting reps with them?
RB: They have all been really good to help us with routes, catching the ball, stuff like that. Leonard(Scott) has really helped me with not overusing my speed. That is a very important part of being a receiver is using your abilities in the right way.
NG: Now I have to honest with you, I have used you as a receiver on NCAA 2003 for Playstation 2 and you have great speed Rashad, but you can't catch at all. Is that game true life or did you get the shaft?
RB: Oh I definitely got the shaft. They just had to make the game early and didn't know I was going to be a receiver. Maybe on next years' game they will have that fixed.
NG: For fifty bucks they better. Rashad thanks and good luck this Saturday.
RB: Thank you very much and we can't wait to get going.

Impact Player of the Game
Each week I am going to have the pregame impact player. This week I couldn't think of two better canidates than Cedric Houston and Jabari Davis. Tennessee has a stable at tailback, but these two guys should see about 75 percent of the carries against the Cowboys. It is hard to pick one them. So I won't. The J-Train's power and ability to run uphill will make him a load to bring down. Houston's speed and ability to cut on a dime will give him a good opportunity to be a big play guy for the Vols against an under-talented Wyoming D. This could be a double 100 yard game for the Davis/Houston combo. Look for one of the two to have at least one long touchdown run before the final whistle blows.

Game prediction;

What a better way to end than to talk about me being on national television. As I am sure many of you have heard, Casey Clausen is the topic of an MTV reality show, True Life, that is being filmed this week. The cameraman was at practice all week and filmed Clausen as he came to talk to the media. Take a stab at who Clausen was talking to when Mr. Camera decided to start rolling. That is right, good ole' me. So set your VCRs and get ready because in December, the television airwaves will change forever. That is of course if I don't end up on the cutting room floor. Let us just hope that MTV execs won't be intimidated by me completely overshadowing Casey's looks with my own.

Until next week.

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