Harrell pick no big surprise

Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis said he felt before the NFL draft that defensive tackle Justin Harrell would go in the middle of the first round, despite Harrell missing all but three games last season because of a ruptured bicep. He was right.

Chavis said the toughness Justin Harrell displayed by playing injured against Florida helped his stock. He said if Green Bay had not taken Harrell with the No. 16 overall pick, Denver would have at No. 17.

Chavis also said he thought Harrell might have been a top-10 pick if he hadn't been injured his senior season.

Harrell is the fourth in-state product to be Tennessee's first player selected in the past eight years. Eddie Moore (2003), John Henderson (2002) and Al Wilson (1999) are the others.

Defensive lineman Turk McBride can play either tackle or end in the NFL, Chavis said. McBride's weight fluctuated about 30 pounds as he played both at Tennessee. McBride's quickness did not suffer as he gained weight, Chavis said.

Phillip Fulmer said he thinks seventh-round pick Marvin Mitchell might be able to make a splash in the NFL just as Omar Gaither did the year before as a fifth-round pick by Philadelphia. Gaither ended up starting for the Eagles. The Saints are in dire need of help at linebacker.

While Fulmer said it was an accomplishment for receiver Robert Meachem to be a first-round pick – No. 27 to New Orleans – UT's coach felt Meachem might have been a top 10 pick if he'd returned for his senior season because this year's draft was stocked with wideouts. Meachem could be an instant star in the Saints system.

All-American Arron Sears didn't go in the first round because NFL scouts don't think he can play tackle. Fulmer disagrees. Sears is expected to begin his Tampa Bay career at guard, but don't be surprised if he plays some tackle.

Sears is the highest drafted offensive lineman at Tennessee since 1991. He was the 35th overall pick. The Vols have had three other second-round picks in the past 16 years – Chad Clifton, Cosey Coleman and Jason Layman.

Sears is also only the second offensive lineman UT has had drafted in the past five years, prompting Fulmer to admit the Vols must upgrade their offensive line talent.

Fulmer said cornerback Jonathan Wade's decision to focus on football in the spring of 2006 helped make him a third-round pick. Fulmer said Wade wasn't a draftable player until his productive senior season. Wade led the SEC is passes defended and also runs the 40 in the 4.3s.

Tennessee was second among SEC schools with six players drafted. Florida led with nine, and could have had more as quarterback Chris Leak, linebacker Earl Everett and defensive tackle Steve Harris weren't selected. The Gators had eight players sign as free agents.

LSU had five players drafted, one less than Tennessee. This proves that the NFL draft isn't always a sound judge of which team has the best talent. Anyone that thinks UT had more talent than LSU because the Vols had one more player selected should submit to a drug test.

Auburn also had five players taken. Arkansas and Georgia had four each, Alabama three, Ole Miss and South Carolina two each and Mississippi State one. Kentucky and Vanderbilt didn't have a player chosen.

SPRING ATTENDANCE NUMBERS ARE REVEALING

Interest in Alabama football can be judged by the 92,138 that attended the spring game. If that's a barometer, then what does it say about Tennessee football than only 17,409 attended the Orange and White game?

It says interest in UT football has waned.

Ohio State and Penn State each had over 70,000 for their respective spring games. Florida had 47,500 coming off a national championship. South Carolina had over 35,000. Auburn had over 31,000. Georgia drew 21,407.

That put Tennessee, which annual leads the SEC in attendance, sixth in the SEC in terms of spring game turnout.

But that's not the most shocking number.

Arkansas, the defending SEC West Division champion, had 2,000 at its spring game. You think Houston Nutt isn't on the hot seat?

LADY VOLS AIDES TO AID BREAST CANCER

Lady Vols basketball assistants Holly Warlick and Nikki Caldwell have planned a unique long-distance trip.

They will attend the Tennessee at California football game Sept. 1, then return to Knoxville via motorcycles to raise money for breast cancer.

``I've always wanted to go cross country on a motorcycle,'' Warlick said. ``I figured if I do it, it might as well be for a good cause.''

The return trip will take almost two weeks. Other riders can join Warlick and Caldwell for segments of the trip from San Francisco to Knoxville.


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