Vols 'tackle' a big challenge

Since the scouting report focused mostly on the opponent's defensive tackles, you would've thought the speaker was Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer. Instead, it was Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl.

Looking ahead to Wednesday night's game at Ole Miss, Pearl compared the Rebels' physically imposing post players to a bunch of husky football players.

"Inside, they've got four defensive tackles that play the position," he said, grinning broadly. "It would look like we were playing (2006 Vol defensive tackles) Jason Harrell and Turk McBride."

The coach has a point. The Rebels' post players are almost as hefty as the 6-4, 300-pound Harrell and the 6-3, 275-pound McBride.

Ole Miss starts 6-8, 280-pound Dwayne Curtis at center and 6-8, 240-pound Kenny Williams at power forward. The top inside reserves are 6-8, 245-pound Jeremy Parnell and 6-5, 240-pound Greg Hardy.

Pearl's characterization of Curtis, Williams and Parnell as "defensive tackles" was somewhat whimsical but Hardy is, in fact, a scholarship football player at Ole Miss.

"Hardy's a big kid ... a really good defensive end," Pearl said. "But, compared to Curtis, Parnell and Williams, he's small. Those are big-body kids."

Making sure those "big-body kids" don't dominate the action on the inside will be quite a challenge Wednesday night for the undersized Vol post duo of 6-7, 233-pound Duke Crews and 6-4, 205-pound Dane Bradshaw.

The biggest challenge - literally and figuratively - is the massive Curtis. The burly junior from Chicago produced 20 points and 12 rebounds as the Rebels beat Arkansas 74-72 Jan. 13 in Oxford. Pearl watched tape of that game and came away impressed. "Arkansas is one of the bigger teams in our league," he noted, "and they (Rebels) were even bigger and more physical. So, keeping them off the offensive board is going to be a real key for us."

Maybe Pearl could counter the Rebel "defensive tackles" with a couple of ex-Vol offensive linemen. Now that they're out of football eligibility, seniors Arron Sears and David Ligon aren't terribly busy these days.

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