Wrecking ball

One of Tennessee's first-team defensive ends likes to think of himself as a wreck waiting to happen ... only in a good way.

Antonio Reynolds defines "wreck" as a player who will do whatever it takes to sack the quarterback. After registering just one sack in 2006, the 6-3, 270-pound senior is determined to be a lot more disruptive in 2007.

"Basically, the key is just being a wreck ... getting there any way possible," he said. "The ball's going to leave in three or four seconds, so you've got to get there somehow."

Reynolds wasn't the only Vol who struggled to drop opposing quarterbacks last fall. Tennessee recorded just 17 sacks all season, its lowest total in 18 years. So, what's the key to boosting that number in 2007?

"Just finish," Reynolds said. "We had a lot of close calls last year where we were close to getting sacks. If we can correct the little things from last year we'll get more sacks and be better on the line."

So, what are those little things?

"Technique," Reynolds replied. "Using your hands better, staying lower."

Vol defenders registered 56 quarterback hurries last fall. Far too often, though, they hit the quarterback a split-second after he unloaded a complete pass.

"That's frustrating," Reynolds recalled. "You've got to look within and see what you can correct. If you're there, there's got to be a reason why you didn't get the quarterback. It could be your steps. It could be that you didn't get off the blocker quick enough. It's just a couple of seconds till the ball gets out, so you've got to figure out how to get there."

Some folks believe the sack is an overrated statistic, that pressuring the quarterback into throwing an incompletion is just as important. Antonio Reynolds does not subscribe to this theory.

"You can say that," he said, "but if a team gets a sack that means it's third-and-17, instead of third-and-10 when it's incomplete. That's why we always try to get the big play."

Reynolds and fellow senior Xavier Mitchell are back for another season as Tennessee's starting ends. Junior Robert Ayers and sophomore Wes Brown are back for another season as the chief reserves at the position. Despite the returning experience, Tennessee's ends are not a heralded group. Reynolds thinks that may change in a couple of months, however.

"I look for us to have a real big season," he said. "I feel we're a little underestimated as a unit because of our numbers last year but I feel we're going to have a breakout year. Even our backups have a lot of experience, so we should be real good."

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