Best of the decade: centers

This is the sixth in a series of articles ranking Tennessee's best players of the decade 2000-2009. Today's focus: Centers.

1. SCOTT WELLS: Forced into the lineup by Fred Weary's Game 2 knee injury in 2000, Wells started his last 49 games as a Vol. At 6-2 and 300 pounds, he was difficult to dislodge in the middle of the line, an attribute that helped him earn All-SEC recognition as a senior in 2003. He also was voted a team captain that season. A standout high school wrestler who understood the value of leverage and positioning, Wells has gone on to distinguish himself as the first-team center for the NFL's Green Bay Packers.

2. JOSH McNEIL: Undersized but valiant at 6-4 and 280 pounds, he started the last nine games of 2006 as a redshirt freshman, then every game in 2007 and 2008. One of the team's most devoted players, he played through considerable pain in putting together his string of 35 consecutive starts. The streak ended, however, when deterioration in both knees reduced him to a spectator's role in 2009.

3. JASON RESPERT: After playing guard during his first three years on campus, Respert moved to center in 2004, filling the huge vacancy created by Wells' departure. The 6-3, 300-pounder was voted a captain in '04 and started every game at center that season, handling the new position in quality fashion.

4. DAVID LIGON: A converted defensive lineman, Ligon took over the center duties the last seven games of 2005, then started all 13 games in '06 at guard. The 6-5, 300-pounder used his athleticism and toughness to provide dependable play and a steadying influence.

5. CODY SULLINS: When McNeil's knees failed him last August, leaving the Vols in a lurch at center, this former walk-on stepped into the void and provided solid play as the starter in all 13 games. An Honors student, the 6-1, 260-pound fifth-year senior used intelligence and hustle to offset some physical limitations.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories