Talent wasn't the problem

Talent wasn't the problem

For a football team that went 5-6, the Tennessee Vols have an awful lot of players involved in post-season all-star action. That underscores what some of us have been saying all along: Talent wasn't the problem in 2005.

Eight UT seniors will get the chance to showcase their skills for pro scouts (and national TV audiences) over the next month.

First up is the Magnolia Gridiron Classic, scheduled this Saturday in Jackson, Miss. It features Vol receiver Chris Hannon, who caught 69 career passes for 850 yards, a 12.3 average.

The Hula Bowl, scheduled Jan. 21 in Honolulu, will include linebacker Omar Gaither. He recorded 210 tackles during his career, including 18 in the 2005 SEC Championship Game vs. Auburn (most by a Vol in 13 years). He led the SEC in forced fumbles last season with four.

Two more Vols – middle linebacker Kevin Simon and defensive end Jason Hall – are slated for action in the East-West Shrine Game, also scheduled Jan. 21. Injuries limited Simon battled to just two full seasons at UT but he led the team in tackles each time, registering 115 stops in 2003 and 88 in 2005.

Hall spent three years backing up Constantin Ritzmann and Karlton Neal before earning a starting job in 2005. He made the most of his big chance, recording at least one sack in five consecutive games. He finished with seven sacks and 13 tackles for loss, ranking among the SEC leaders in each category.

The grand-daddy of postseason all-star games, the Senior Bowl (Jan. 28), will feature four former Vols – quard Cody Douglas, defensive end Parys Haralson, defensive tackle Jesse Mahelona and offensive tackle Albert Toeaina.

Douglas made 24 career starts at right guard and, like the Right Guard deodorant, was best known for his protection. The tough Texan was voted a team captain in 2005.

Haralson was a two-year captain who is third on UT's all-time tackles-for-loss chart with 46.5, trailing only Leonard Little and Reggie White. He also has 21.5 career sacks, best among active SEC players.

Mahelona, a junior college transfer, recorded 77 tackles in his two years with the Vols, including a whopping 26.5 stops for loss. He was accorded All-America recognition both years.

Toeaina another juco product, missed his final college game (vs. Kentucky) on a disciplinary suspension. Prior to that, however, he started 18 games over two years.

Two Vols earned All-America recognition for their play in 2005. Mahelona was tabbed third-team All-America by the Associated Press and junior offensive tackle Arron Sears was pegged third-team A-A by College Football News.

Tennessee's football program had a lot of problems in 2005. Talent wasn't one of them.

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