Key matchup: Parker vs. Dorsey

No Tennessee player is looking forward to Saturday's SEC Championship game more than Anthony Parker, although probably no Vol has less reason to do so.

Parker faces the unenviable task of blocking LSU's Glenn Dorsey. If you don't know that name already, you will when the next National Football League Draft rolls around. Dorsey, a 6-2, 303-pounder with the strength and ferocity of a grizzly bear, is projected by some experts as the No. 1 overall pick. That's an honor usually reserved for strong-armed quarterbacks or fleet-footed tailbacks ... not defensive tackles.

Obviously, Dorsey is no ordinary defensive tackle. In spite of back problems and constant double-teaming, he has registered 61 tackles this fall, including 44 solos. To put that number in perspective, consider that the leading tackler among Tennessee's defensive linemen, Xavier Mitchell, has 40 stops with 18 solos.

"He's a great player," Vol offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe said. "He's an All-American ... unbelievably strong and quick. Just look at his picture. I don't know if I've ever seen a neck like that; it's all muscle. He's just hard to deal with one-on-one. It's amazing."

Dorsey is a finalist for four of college football's premier awards – the Lombardi (top interior lineman), the Outland (outstanding interior lineman), the Bednarik (outstanding defensive player) and the Nagurski (outstanding defensive player). Still, Anthony Parker is eager to face him.

"It should be a great matchup," the Vols' 6-3, 305-pound junior guard said. "It'll be interesting to see what happens on Saturday."

The smile on Parker's face suggested the prospect of facing Dorsey has him really pumped up for this game.

"It definitely does," Parker said. "I'm playing against possibly the No. 1 overall pick. What more could I ask for? That's why I came to Tennessee."

Dorsey's greatness is enhanced by a superior supporting cast. Opponents can't focus primarily on him because the Tigers have other quality defenders capable of blowing up plays on a regular basis.

"They've got a great front seven, and they all complement each other well," Parker said. "You can't always put two bullets (blockers) in him. You've got to put ‘em in somebody else. When he does get in a one-on-one situation, he takes advantage of it."

Phillip Fulmer agrees that the talent around him makes Dorsey even better.

"Defensively, I don't know if anybody in the country has a better front than what they can put on the field," the Vols' head man said. "And it's not just the starters. They have backup guys that come in and you say, ‘He's going to be a pro ... he's going to be a pro ... he's going to be a pro' because of the way they play.

"It's the same thing with their linebackers. Ali Highsmith gets all the credit – and it's well deserved – but the other guys are good, too. They're a very, very gifted football team."

Cutcliffe described LSU's front four as "really, really good," adding: "It's amazing to watch them in certain games.... Their front is so formidable you can't hardly get past it. When you get past it, their secondary is tremendous – tacklers, cover guys. And their linebackers are special. It's a very veteran defense that does a lot of things."

Still, LSU's defense has been vulnerable at times. Kentucky (43-37) and Arkansas (50-48) beat the Tigers in three-overtime thrillers. How did the Wildcats and Razorbacks pile up points against such a vaunted defense?

"Big plays," Cutcliffe said. "Any of us are susceptible to that. When somebody pops a big play on you, defensively, your numbers get skewed. Nobody has consistently taken the ball (down the field) on them all year long."

Before injuries took their toll, the Tigers had the most dominating defense in college football. Cutcliffe is hoping that won't be the group Tennessee faces Saturday in Atlanta.

"Go back and look at Virginia Tech," Cutcliffe said, referring to LSU's opener against a team currently ranked No. 6 nationally. "They had 71 yards rushing and 78 yards passing, so that gives you a perspective real quickly as to what kind of defensive team we're looking at."


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