The offensive line is one of the biggest in Bulldog history, with such specimens as Craig Hertwig (6'8", 260 pounds) and Barry Collier (6'6", 275 pounds), but the bruiser most talked about plays defense: sophomore Linebacker Sylvester Boler, the outstanding defensive player in the one-point Peach Bowl win over Maryland. After the game a Maryland player commented, "It's hard to score on 13 people. They had the official on their side, and Boler counts as two."
Dooley and the Bulldogs really had nothing to be ashamed of last year. They lost by one point to Florida, by four to Vanderbilt and by five to Kentucky; Alabama came from behind to win after trailing with three minutes to play. This year, if the Veer gets in gear and Boler bowls over runners in the manner expected, Georgia could be back to its record of three seasons ago, 11-1.
Those high-stepping Tennessee walking horses have had plenty of reason to prance in their nine years on the Neyland Stadium sidelines. Every year since 1965 the Volunteers have won at least eight games, played in a bowl and finished in the Top 20. No other team can make that claim.
But what about this year? The horses will strut and, odds are, the team will, too. Tipsters whisper, however, that the old orange mare ain't what she used to be. Bill Battle's fourth Tennessee team limped down the stretch last season, finishing out of the Top 10 and losing a bowl game for the first time. The breakdown occurred in the second half of an 8-4 season as the Vols dropped four of their last seven games. The blame was laid on the most porous defense since 1893. Just one season after the Volunteers were third in the nation against scoring, they ballooned to a 20-point-per-game yield.
Battle believes the defense will be much improved this fall, and he says it will stiffen because of changes in the offense. "We went to the Veer in spring practice as much to toughen our defense as to help the offense," the 32-year-old coach explains. "Essentially, the Veer comes right at you, and that's the kind of football we want our defense to play, too."
The Veer, with its scattershot triple options, will be executed by senior Quarterback Condredge Holloway. When the offense was introduced last spring Holloway was playing varsity baseball. But on the few occasions he wandered over to football practice to try his hand, his performance drew smiles. "We thought we had been doing pretty good with it until we saw Condredge," says Battle.
Holloway brandishes one of the most effective passing arms in Tennessee history, having suffered only seven interceptions in two years while completing 59% of his attempts. Nevertheless, he seems perfectly suited to the run-oriented Veer. "He has more moves and is harder to get hold of than any back I ever saw," Bear Bryant once drawled. Holloway will work behind a talented line led by Guard Mickey Marvin and Tackle Phil Clabo. Marvin, a 270-pound sophomore, has already been compared to Tennessee All-America Chip Kell.
Although inexperienced, Running Backs Paul Careathers and Mike Gayles have lots of potential. And when Holloway is not handing the ball off or running it himself, he can look to Larry Seivers and Stanley Morgan to catch it. Seivers has the moves, Morgan the speed.
A primary objective for new defensive coordinator Larry Jones, who came to Knoxville from Florida State, is improved end play. Ronnie McCartney, who won a starting job late last season, could be a bulwark at that position. Another solid performer is Tackle Robert Pulliam.