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Meachem could lead parade of Volunteers

April 27th, 2007 11:03 pm by Associated Press



The University of Tennessee used to be known as "Wide Receiver U." Robert Meachem may have a chance to help the Volunteers start reclaiming that nickname.


Meachem is projected as a first-round pick today in the NFL draft by a handful of mock drafts, either as the second or third receiver taken overall. He has size at 6-foot-3 and 211 pounds, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds at the NFL combine and set a school record with 1,298 yards receiving.


And he might not have to move too far away from Knoxville if the Tennessee Titans decide to use the No. 19 pick overall to give quarterback Vince Young a new target.


"I think Meachem physically has all the tools," Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt said. "He has the strong lower body and he can kind of do all of it. So it's almost a matter of what you're looking for in a wide receiver."


If Meachem is taken in the first round, he would become the first Vols receiver taken that high since New Orleans drafted Donté Stallworth in 2002 and the third since Dallas took Alvin Harper at No. 12 in 1991.


That's not how it used to be for UT receivers.


The Vols had six receivers taken in the first round between 1977 (Stanley Morgan) and 1988 (Anthony Miller). The players drafted in that stretch included Anthony Hancock, Willie Gault and Clyde Duncan.


But for a program that had five players drafted a year ago - four on the second day - Tennessee could have as many as five drafted in the first two rounds today. That's a big improvement from 2005 when only three Vols heard their names called.


Tennessee defensive tackle Justin Harrell, whose torn biceps tendon ended his senior season, is projected as a late first-round pick. Pat Kirwan on NFL.com tabbed Harrell as the first Vol drafted, going to Pittsburgh at No. 15.


All-American offensive tackle Arron Sears (6-4, 320 pounds) won the Jacobs Award as the best blocker in the Southeastern Conference and finished his career with 32 straight starts. He played every position on the offensive line except center and is likely be drafted in the second round.


All-SEC defensive tackle Turk McBride (6-4, 275 pounds) moved from end to tackle to replace Harrell last season. McBride led SEC linemen with 64 tackles in the regular season. Experts place him as a second-round choice.


Cornerback Jonathan Wade 6-foot, 195 pounds), a former sprinter, gave up track for his senior year to concentrate on football, and the move paid off with his best season. He was second on the team with four interceptions and had 49 tackles. Projections for the draft range from second to fourth round.


Several other former Vols aren't projected to go at least until the second day.


Fullback Cory Anderson (6-3, 255 pounds) is a former defensive player who saw his time diminish at fullback last season because the Vols relied more on tight ends for blocking. He could be taken in a late round.


The Vols' second-best receiver last season, Jayson Swain (6-1, 205 pounds), took advantage of double teams on Meachem to get six touchdowns. Swain could go late or end up as an undrafted free agent.


Receiver Bret Smith (6-3, 190 pounds) had a negative ending to his career when he was declared academically ineligible to play in the bowl game. He finished the season behind Meachem and Swain with five TDs. Smith also is likely a late-rounder or free agent.


Marvin Mitchell (6-3, 235 pounds) played middle linebacker last season. He could be taken late or sign as a free agent.


Antwan Stewart (6-foot, 195 pounds) moved from safety to cornerback to replace an injured teammate last year. Experts say he will likely end up an undrafted free agent.


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