Wingin' it

Josh Tabb spent his first two seasons with the Tennessee basketball program stuck behind All-America guard Chris Lofton. Now, even with Lofton gone, the Vols appear to be solid on the perimeter.

"There's no Chris Loftons yet that you know you've really got to guard every second of every possession, but Scotty Hopson and Cameron Tatum probably can give me a challenge," Tabb noted recently. "They're quick and long and athletic. Cameron can shoot and Scotty can shoot. They give us more bigger guys that can penetrate and get to the foul line."

Tatum is a 6-6 redshirt freshman who missed almost all of 2007-08 with an ankle injury and is battling knee problems this preseason. Hopson is a 6-6 true freshman who might be the most heralded player Tennessee has signed since Vincent Yarbrough.

"Scotty's got a lot of hype on him right now – the first McDonald's All-American in however many years – but he's really been working," said Tabb, a 6-4 junior from Carbondale, Ill. "I'd say by the time he gets his frame stronger lifting weights, he'll be fine. But he's just a freshman and it's a learning experience. I'm a junior, and I'm STILL learning."

In addition to Tabb, Tatum and Hopson, Tennessee's wing corps features 6-8 junior J.P. Prince (currently sidelined by injury) and 6-8 freshman Renaldo Woolridge.

Even with such imposing size, Tennessee's backcourt is sure to miss Lofton, JaJuan Smith, Ramar Smith and Jordan Howell - the top four guards of 2007-08. Matching last season's 31-5 record is unlikely but, as Monday night's exhibition opener against Indianapolis approaches, Tabb is taking a wait-and-see approach.

"It's too early to tell right now," he said. "You can't take anything away from the team we had last year. We won at Memphis, won the SEC season outright and had our second Sweet 16 season in a row."

Even so, head coach Bruce Pearl, his staff and his players were somewhat disappointed. All felt they should've advanced beyond the Sweet 16.

"It's felt like that two years in a row," Tabb said. "I watched Ohio State and Florida (in the Final Four title game) my freshman year after Ohio State came back from 20 down to beat us ... and we'd beat Florida (twice during the regular season).

"Then last year we win at Memphis, and they end up making it to the championship game. It's like, 'Man, if we can make it past the Sweet 16, we'll be fine.'"

Tennessee failed to make it past the Sweet 16 last March largely because it ran into a tall, athletic Louisville team that smothered the Vols' transition attack and shredded their man-to-man defense.

"Louisville was bigger than us at every position," Tabb noted, "so Coach went out and recruited some bigger guys and bigger wing men."

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