Bama-born Brown is eager

He grew up in Alabama but plays for Tennessee. With the Vols and Tide colliding tonight, you'd think that might cause mixed emotions for the player in question. You'd be wrong, though.

Although he grew up Athens, Ala., UT defensive end Wes Brown is all Vol. His parents are long-time Vol fans and he grew up a die-hard Vol fan ... even in the heart of Crimson Tide Country.

"This is the game I grew up loving and watching," Brown said earlier this week. "I really fell in love with this game because it's such a great rivalry. Being from Alabama I see what this game means to Alabama people and to Tennessee people, too. It's a great game."

Tonight's showdown, scheduled for a 7:45 kickoff at Neyland Stadium, could be a great game. The Tide is 7-0 and ranked No. 2 nationally. Tennessee is 3-4 but coming off its first quality performance of the year, a 34-3 drubbing of Mississippi State last Saturday night. The Vols recorded a season-high five sacks that evening, which should boost their confidence a bit.

"Confidence helps in anything," said Brown, who assisted on one of the sacks. "If you have confidence in yourself, you carry that out onto the field. After getting after Mississippi State's offensive line like we did, we have do the same thing and have the same success Alabama."

Having success against the Tide O-line will be a considerably tougher task. Bama has the SEC's finest blocking front, anchored by superstars Andre Smith and Antoine Caldwell.

"They're big, strong and physical," Brown noted. "Alabama's always been a physical team and this game has always been a physical game. They come off (the ball) like wild men, knocking guys off the ball, then getting after linebackers to cut off pursuit lanes.

"They're athletic to be as big as they are. Andre Smith is 330 or 340 pounds and he's one of the most athletic guys in the country for that size. They're just overall a really well-developed offensive line."

Still, Brown is hoping to continue making the type of progress he made last weekend against Mississippi State.

"Wes played the best football game he's played since he's been here," Vol defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell said. "He was in their backfield all night and was able to make some key plays in the run game, keep pressure on the quarterback all night long.

"Wes is one of those kids that you knew was going to (blossom). I think his knee's getting a little bit better, so he's getting closer to full strength. That's really helping him, too."

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