Vols lack consistency, not heart

If football games were won on heart alone, the Tennessee Vols would have a lot better shot at winning the national championship this fall. The team has come up short in execution, focus and discipline but it has never shown a shortage of guts.

''Our kids have fought their rears off, absolutely,'' head coach Phillip Fulmer said earlier this week.

To underscore his point, Fulmer recapped the way the Vols have fought through a rash of injuries to key players.

''(Karlton) Neal comes in for (Constantin) Ritzmann and does a great job, then we have Mondre Dickerson come in and do a really good job for Neal. Mondre gets his shoulder banged up and Demetrin Veal goes out there and does a heck of a job. (Kevin) Burnett, probably our best defensive player, goes down, and Kevin Simon comes in and does an incredibly good job. Then Simon goes down, and (Keyon) Whiteside and (Robert) Peace step up big-time.''

''We've been playing the guard thing with whoever's healthy,'' Fulmer added. ''(Chavis) Smith goes down in two-a-days, and (Anthony) Herrera's having a fabulous year -- a banner year -- then he goes down and Chavis steps back up.

''Jabari (Davis) comes in and has a great game when Cedric Houston goes out.''

Now the rash of injuries has spread to include star quarterback Casey Clausen, whose status for Saturday's game at Georgia is a bit iffy.

''It's been that kind of year,'' Fulmer said somewhat wistfully. ''I appreciate the fight and the effort, the find-a-way-to-get-it-done attitude of our football team. There are areas we've got to get better at certainly but you can't question the heart and fight of these kids to this point.''

So, if Tennessee's effort is so good, what's the problem?

''We've played flashes,'' Fulmer said. ''A lot of plays on both sides we've played really, really well. Early on it was penalties. The last ballgame it was some strange looks that ended up getting us. If I saw an effort issue I'd be real concerned. We're just trying to get all the pieces put just like we want them.''

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