Where's Witten?

Following a six-catch performance in Game 8 at South Carolina on Nov. 2, Vol tight end Jason Witten has just about disappeared from the face of the Earth. He had one catch in Game 9 vs. Miami, one catch in Game 10 vs. Mississippi State and two catches in Game 11 vs. Vanderbilt.

Since Witten is just about the only reliable receiver in Tennessee's stable, why haven't the Vols made more use of him in recent weeks?

''Against Mississippi State we were going to pound the rock out of necessity,'' offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said, referring to the fact star quarterback Casey Clausen missed the game with a foot injury. ''We didn't have a lot of choice.''

Even with Clausen back in gear last Saturday against Vandy, however, Witten still played a minor role in the passing game.

''Last week, once we got up on them (Commodores) and I had a chance to watch our defense play against their offense, I wasn't real concerned about them scoring very many points,'' Sanders said. ''I really tried to make sure Casey didn't get hit any more ... that he'd be healthy for this week. I told Casey that there were some opportunities to work some things to Jason but I didn't see a reason to. I know Casey and Jason can execute. I wanted to see who else could step up and do some things.''

Even though Clausen is back in the lineup, he is nowhere near 100 percent. That's another reason Witten had so few balls thrown his way last weekend.

''Casey's never been the most mobile guy, so having a bad ankle doesn't slow him down that much,'' Sanders said. ''But he's having a hard time pushing off that foot and getting his weight going forward. Sometimes his mechanics fall apart.''

Assuming Clausen's ankle is a little better this weekend, the Vols probably will throw the ball quite a bit against a Kentucky defense that masses to stop the run. If so, Witten likely will re-emerge as the go-to guy of Tennessee's passing attack.


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