Vol 'showboating' to end

Tennessee's dream of an undefeated season wasn't the only thing that ended on soggy Shields-Watkins Field last Saturday. The game also marked an end to Vol showboating.

Several players raised the issue of showboating at a team meeting on Monday. They called for a greater emphasis on teamwork and a clamp-down on individual antics. No specific names were mentioned but wideout Kelley Washington is widely recognized as the Vols' master of self-promotion. Regardless, the stylin' and profilin' that often occurs after a nice catch, a nifty run or a clutch tackle is about to end.

''That stuff's got to stop,'' tight end Jason Witten said. ''We've just got to go out and win ball games. That's why we're here. We're expected to make plays and go on.''

Asked if there has been too much individualism on this team, he replied: ''I think so, a little bit. This is my third year, and this is the most it's been. To me, I think it's kind of ridiculous how guys act sometimes.''

Although he dislikes showboating, Witten emphasized that no one is questioning the determination of UT's players, even those who tend to toot their own horn a bit.

''For the most part, I think everybody was playing hard and wanting to win,'' he said. ''It was just that there was some showboating and being real cocky. That gives the other team a lot of excitement and motivation, and we don't need to give anybody any boost.''

Reminded that Al Wilson, the star of Tennessee's 1998 National Championship team, NEVER danced, taunted or otherwise drew attention to himself, Witten nodded his agreement.

''If it's a good team, you really don't have to do that,'' he said. ''If you're a good player, you don't have to talk about yourself.''

Apparently, Monday's team meeting cleared the air and settled the issue of showboating once and for all.

''I think the guys -- especially the seniors -- addressed that issue pretty well,'' Witten said. ''They said that's got to stop. The big thing is, we want to win a national championship. That's our goal. It's not who can catch the most passes or make the most tackles ... just win the ball game.''

The team meeting must have had the desired effect because Monday's practice was more business-like and focused than usual.

''It was like a different team yesterday,'' Witten said. ''All that stuff that's probably been on everybody's mind for a while has been released and everybody feels good, I believe.''

Head coach Phillip Fulmer conceded that his team has a new attitude. ''Humble and hungry'' is how he characterized it.

''I think for the rest of the season this team is going to be hungry,'' Witten said. ''We realize we've got to win the big games. We've got to go out every week and play the best we can on Saturday, put it all together. I believe we'll be all right if we do that.''


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