Gaines on comeback list

If college football gave a "Comeback Player of the Year" award, two of the leading candidates for 2008 could be meeting when Tennessee and UCLA collide Sept. 1 in Pasadena.

That's the word from Dave Curtis of

In an article entitled "College football comeback players to watch," Curtis pegs Vol defensive back Antonio Gaines No. 5 and UCLA running back Raymond Carter No. 12 among an even dozen guys he expects to bounce back in a big way from major injuries suffered last fall.

Gaines started two games at cornerback as a fifth-year senior for Tennessee last season. The 5-9, 185-pounder from Covington recorded three tackles and three assists in Game 1 vs. Cal, then suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Game 2 vs. Southern Miss. Because he also missed the 2003 season due to injury, Gaines has been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.

Here's what Curtis has to say about him:

"DB Antonio Gaines, Tennessee: Gaines injured his ACL in week two against Southern Mississippi; in week three, the Vols gave up six offensive touchdowns at Florida. He'll be joined in the secondary by Demetrice Morley, back at UT after spending last fall in community college."

And here's what Curtis has to say about Carter:

"RB Raymond Carter, UCLA: The young back might not be the best on his roster, but his breakaway speed gives offensive coordinator Norm Chow another scoring weapon. He tore his right ACL during last year's training camp but recovered to practice in the spring."

It's always nice to see Tennessee players receive national attention but Gaines seems to be a real long-shot to reclaim his starting job in '08. He finished spring practice third-team at right corner behind two exceptionally talented sophomores, Dennis Rogan (5-10, 185) and Brent Vinson (6-0, 190). Vinson started the last nine games of '07 and ranked second among all UT players with 8 pass breakups. Rogan has never started but his dramatic development was one of the most pleasant surprises of spring practice.

Tennessee appears just as strong at left corner, where senior DeAngelo Willingham (6-0, 200) and junior Marsalous Johnson (5-9, 180) ended spring practice bracketed first-team after starting seven games each last fall.

If Antonio Gaines is good enough to start ahead of these guys, Tennessee's secondary should be downright awesome this fall.

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