UT's Holbert has ACL tear

He was just getting adjusted to life as a tight end. Now he must adjust to life as a non-participant.

David Holbert, a 6-1, 250-pound senior from Nashville, tore an ACL in Friday's Tennessee football practice. He will undergo surgery this week and miss the entire 2007 season.

"This is disappointing for us," head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "He has done really well. Fortunately, he had a redshirt year left."

After starring at Brentwood Academy in Nashville, Holbert was a ballyhooed member of the Vols' 2003 signing class. Stuck behind No. 1 fullback Cory Anderson, he saw backup action in 2004, 2005 and 2006. His only career start came in the '05 finale at Kentucky.

Holbert has just two rushes and one net yard to show for his first three years in the Vol program. He carried one time as a freshman and one time as a junior in 2006. He proved to be a decent receiver out of the backfield, catching seven career passes for 66 yards and a touchdown.

Anderson and Holbert played so poorly in 2006 that Tennessee gradually phased out the fullback position and played two tight ends the last half of the season. The Vol staff combined the fullbacks and tight ends into a hybrid position last spring, forcing Holbert to learn a new set of responsibilities.

Seniors Chris Brown and Brad Cottam, plus sophomore Jeff Cottam and redshirt freshman Luke Stocker projected to get most of the playing time in 2007, leaving Holbert as the odd man out this fall.

"We had actually talked in the last few days about the what-ifs," Fulmer said. "With the two seniors in Brad Cottam and Brown at that position, we had talked about redshirting him anyway."

Given the likelihood he will be a reserve in 2008, Holbert may choose to give up football rather than endure what promises to be a long and taxing rehabilitation process.

"He has to have a tremendous attitude about rehabbing ... and we'll have him back next year," Fulmer noted. "It's a plus if he makes it a plus. I hope he will."

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