Stopping run is key for UT

Defensive tackle Demonte Bolden knows a key for Tennessee this season will be stopping the run.

But don't suggest Bolden is THE key. He's only part of the equation.

``No,'' Bolden quickly interrupted when asked if he's the key. ``I just see like the whole defense as the key. We'll win ballgames if the defense is together. We've got a couple of players that make plays but we only win together. People shouldn't see it as a person is a key.''

Bolden was bothered by the fact UT allowed almost 147 rushing yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry. Only two SEC teams – Ole Miss and Kentucky – had a worse yards per carry defense. Florida allowed 2.7 yards per rush.

``It bothered us a lot because it's not the old defense,'' Bolden said. ``The old defense wouldn't have allowed none of that. I feel like this year we can bring something to the table and as we grow and keep growing, we'll see that cease and stop.''

Bolden said it was particularly frustrating to allow Penn State to ram the ball down UT's throat the way it did in the fourth quarter of the Outback Bowl.

While Bolden may not see himself as a key, he sees his position as a key.

``This year I feel like, yeah, the defensive tackles have been challenged,'' Bolden said. ``Basically, we're the underdogs right now and I'm tired of that. It's time for a change. We should make a difference this year.

``It motivates us a lot just to know people don't believe in us. I believe in all the defensive tackles.''

Bolden expects fellow defensive tackle J.T. Mapu to have a big season after struggling in 2006. Mapu was coming off a two-year Mormon mission and contributed just eight tackles in 13 games. He had 26 in 2003.

``I think Mapu will have a lot better year,'' Bolden said. ``He was a little out of shape for two years. Who's not (after two years)? And this year, he's getting back into the groove and he should be a lot better.''

So should Bolden, who, according to defensive coordinator John Chavis, has simply become a better football player. Bolden said he's more consistent and he's doing a better job getting off blocks, which should make him a more effective pass rusher.

``It's still an ongoing process,'' Bolden said. ``I'm not 100 percent or the best football player out there. But I sure can hope to strive for it. I feel like I'm more focused. … I know what needs to be done.''

Bolden's goal?

``To make All-SEC, basically,'' said the 6-foot-6, 300-pounder. ``At least something just to get on the map.''

Considering the way UT dominated Cal a year ago, is there a concern the Vols might take the Bears lightly?

``No, you can't take Cal lightly,'' Bolden said. ``They're Cal. You never know. You can't even take a small school lightly.''


California coach Jeff Tedford said he wants redemption – not revenge – when his Golden Bears play host to Tennessee on Saturday night.

I'm sure I understand the difference. Nonetheless, expect Cal to be motivated.

Tedford said his team didn't play well in an ``awesome environment'' at Neyland Stadium last year. He thinks the UT game this season could be a defining moment.

``If we're successful, it would validate we're a good football team,'' Tedford said.

What surprised him most about the UT game last year?

``Just that we didn't execute to our potential,'' Tedford said. ``We were better than we played. You hear about the environment at Tennessee. It was all that it was cracked up to be and more.''

Tedford doesn't look at this game as one for conference bragging rights.

``We're not going into this thing like we're carrying the torch for the Pac-10. We're trying to win the game for our team,'' Tedford said.

Tedford said the difference in quarterback Nate Longshore from last year at this time to now is ``night and day. He was really raw at that point.''

Can the fans at Cal create a similar atmosphere as those at UT a year ago?

``I think our fans are poised to create a home-field advantage for us,'' Tedford said. ``Hopefully, we'll give them something to cheer about.''


Running backs coach Kurt Roper said Arian Foster is capable of carrying the ball 30 times against Cal if necessary.

``Sure, I think he could,'' Roper said. ``I think he's in that kind of shape. I think he has that kind of conditioning. He's a guy that could go a full game and get those carries.''

And if Foster gets hot, look for UT to feed him.

``As the game goes on, you try to make those decisions,'' Roper said. ``You obviously have a hard time taking a guy out of a game who's playing really well and feeling really good. But if you hit a 5-yard gain, a 10-yard gain, and a 25-yard gain, you might need to get a fresh guy in there at that point.''

Roper said he's been impressed with backup tailback Montario Hardesty, who has battled though a hamstring but is close to 100 percent.

``He looks really good to me right now,'' Roper said. ``He is fast. He's an explosive, physical human being. He really is and it's showing up on the practice field.''

Roper said Foster and Hardesty are two different type runners.

``Foster's first step ability in small space is to make a tackler miss or break a tackle. Montario is more down hill. He'll pick the edge of a tackler and make it hard to tackle him by being physical. Both have really good speed and make plays in space but that initial start, they're a little bit different.''


Tennessee baseball coach Todd Raleigh pledged to hit the state of Tennessee hard on the recruiting trial. He's living up to his word.

The Vols have five commitments, four from in-state players.

The most recent was the versatile Scott Ramsey of Farragut, the No. 2 ranked player in the state. Ramsey can pitch, catch or play outfield.

The Vols also got a recent commitment from left-hand pitcher Steve Groover, the No. 2 ranked prospect in Ohio.

UT also has a commitment from right-hand pitcher Clayton Gant of Parsons, Tenn. Gant was offered by LSU, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

The Vols got earlier commitments from two pitchers – Hunter Daniel of Bearden High School and Adam Adkins of Goodpasture.

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