Gibril's fired up for 'Dores

Fans who love free-wheeling passing attacks probably aren't excited about Saturday's Tennessee-Vanderbilt game at Nashville Coliseum. But Gibril Wilson is. This is his kind of game.

Wilson built a reputation as a big-time hitter as a junior college safety, and he's done nothing to tarnish that reputation since arriving at UT last January. Because he loves the physical nature of football, he's eager to face a Commodore attack that relies heavily on a smash-mouth running game.

''Definitely,'' he says. ''This is going to be a big challenge for me and the rest of the guys. I have to be in the box, be a solid tackler, do what I'm good at -- just fly around.''

No one enjoys ''flying around'' more than Wilson. That's why he figures to be a key element as Tennessee attempts to shut down the Vanderbilt option attack. The Commodores don't use a trickery. They just line up and dare you to stop the run.

''It's definitely easier when you know the ball's coming your way,'' Wilson said. ''Then you can just react. You know what's going on and that people are not trying to trick you.''

When Vandy runs the option, Wilson's responsibility will be to take the trailing back (or pitch man).

''Basically, I lock down a lot,'' he says. ''I'll be in the mix of the option. I've got the pitch, so I've got to do a good job of being where I'm supposed to be. We can't have no breakdowns by me or anybody else. Basically, we've got to play a perfect game.''

Tennessee's defense didn't play a perfect game last week at Mississippi State but it scored a touchdown (on a nine-yard fumble return by Rashad Moore) and gave the Vol offense excellent field position on several other occasions. Vol defenders are hoping to have a similar impact this weekend.

''We took it upon ourselves each game to try and dominate,'' Wilson says. ''But our guys are so dedicated, so into it, that we feel like we've still got a lot to improve on. We all know that, and we encourage each other to do better.''

While fans fret that the Vols may overlook the 2-9 Commodores, Wilson says head coach Phillip Fulmer has taken steps to prevent this.

''He basically let us know that Vanderbilt is a very hungry team and they play their best whenever they play Tennessee,'' Wilson said. ''We've got to play at our level, not their level. Sometimes when you go into a game like that, you tend to stoop to somebody else's level. We've definitely got to play at our level, and not stoop down.''

Given that Tennessee (6-4) is struggling to earn a decent bowl bid, it's hard to imagine the Vols looking down their noses at any opponent. Wilson concedes the point.

''We've got to get every win we can,'' he says. ''There's no room to overlook anybody.''


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