Team preview: Tennessee

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(All information as of June 20, 2007)


Tennessee fans concerned whether the Vols' 5-6 meltdown in 2005 was merely an aberration or the harbinger of a downturn in the program might be breathing easier these days. Well, maybe a bit easier.

Tennessee regrouped in 2006 by winning nine games, but no one, least of all head coach Phillip Fulmer, is content to rest on that accomplishment, especially after -- once again -- a bowl game ended the year on a sour note. Penn State manhandled Tennessee in the Outback Bowl, the Vols' fifth loss in their seven postseason appearances since winning the national championship in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl.

After the Vols were out-muscled by the Nittany Lions, Fulmer vowed they would get tougher. He knows only too well that if his team is going to pass unscathed through the gauntlet of the Southeastern Conference regular season, survive the league's championship game and still have enough gas left to beat a rugged opponent in a significant bowl game, mental and physical toughness, the ability to play though pain and developing team chemistry are matters of paramount importance.

Fulmer and his staff put the Vols through a physical spring practice to identify those players willing to do whatever it takes to get Tennessee football back to the point it can contend for a national championship.