Who'll replace Dane?

Think of the 2006-07 Tennessee basketball team as a spice cake.

Post players Wayne Chism and Duke Crews were the eggs – the foundation of the batter. Point guard Ramar Smith was the sugar – enhancing the flavor. Flashy JaJuan Smith was the spice – for obvious reasons. High-scoring Chris Lofton was the icing – the part everyone notices.

That left Dane Bradshaw to be the flour – providing very little flavor but essentially holding everything else together.

The purpose of this metaphor is to underscore an important point: The 2007-08 Volunteers seem to have all of the ingredients to make winning this year's SEC title ... well, a piece of cake. The key question: Who will be the flour now that Bradshaw's gone?

Head coach Bruce Pearl mulls that question a lot these days, although he approaches it less from the perspective of a baker of cakes and more from the perspective of a chemistry professor.

"Chemistry is something that will have to evolve," he said recently. "Now there are going to be some chemistry issues. Dane Bradshaw no longer is on this basketball team. That is a fact. Sometimes less is more. Dane did not require a lot of shots, and he made everybody else out there better.

"The person I put out there in his place will probably be a better individual player but he is liable not to make everyone else better like Dane did. That is a chemistry issue."

The leading contenders to replace the 6-4, 210-pound Bradshaw as UT's starting power forward are 6-7, 220-pound Iowa transfer Tyler Smith and 6-9, 240-pound Ryan Childress.

Smith is rangy, quick and explosive. In terms of athleticism, he is a significant upgrade from Bradshaw. Childress is tough as a pine knot and surprisingly accurate from 3-point range. In terms of physicality and shooting ability, he is a significant upgrade from Bradshaw.

Here's the bottom line, though: Can Smith and/or Childress provide the intangibles Bradshaw did? Will their enthusiasm energize their teammates? Can they provide leadership? Will they make big plays in the clutch? Can they help the team even when their shots aren't falling?

Like Tennessee's fans, Pearl must wait and see how the Vols adapt to life without Bradshaw. He was not a great talent but he was a guy who could do a little bit of everything. He had to, given how little depth the Vols had the past two years. Conversely, the 2007-08 roster features a glut of capable players, a development that has Pearl smiling.

"Believe me," he said, "I would rather have more (players) to do it than less ... and have to wonder what you would do when Chris Lofton gets hurt for few weeks or if anybody along the front line gets in foul trouble."


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