Vols Prep for Arkansas; Johnson Surgery Successful

(UTSports.com) -- Tennessee's play on its home turf hasn't always been perfect in 2007, but it has resulted in a clean sheet of five wins in five tries.

Those triumphs have included comfortable margins against three non-conference foes, an early breakout against Georgia that led to a 21-point win, and overtime heroics necessary to secure a season-turning victory against South Carolina.

The Vols stand 6-3 overall and, more importantly, 3-2 and in control of its destiny in the Southeastern Conference.

Now, Arkansas calls Saturday afternoon with title implications all over the SEC's Eastern Division. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. Eastern time.

"We've had a good, focused week of practice," Fulmer said after Thursday's workout at Haslam Field. "I think we have a clear understanding of our challenge."

"That's not new to this team; we've been challenged all year long. Winning five out of our last six is a positive thing to build on."

Arkansas, too, has won five of six heading into Saturday's showdown and the Razorbacks (6-3, 2-3 SEC) have their vaunted rushing attack in high gear coming off last weekend's 48-36 waltz past South Carolina. The Hogs ran for 541 yards in the win and lead the league in rushing by more than 100 yards per game over LSU, the second-closest pursuer.

"We're really glad to be playing at home," Fulmer said. "We're a very young football team. Having 21 freshmen and redshirt freshmen that are making a significant impact on this team in some way, being in a friendlier environment probably does help.

"You don't really try to distinguish home or away very much, to be honest with you. But it has been a plus being at home."

Tennessee (6-3, 3-2 SEC), which hosts Vanderbilt next weekend to conclude the Neyland Stadium slate, is trying to finish undefeated at home for the first time since 1999. In addition, the last time UT won all four games of four consecutive home dates was way back in 1960 when Tampa (62-7), Alabama (20-7), Chattanooga (35-0) and North Carolina (27-14) provided the opposition.

Parts I and II of the homestand are in the books. Heisman Trophy-candidate Darren McFadden and Co. loom large.

"The bottom line is we've got to figure out a way to get those guys slowed down and stopped, and score enough points to win the football game."

Head athletic trainer Jason McVeigh announced that defensive back Marsalous Johnson was released from UT Day Surgery earlier Thursday after successful arthroscopic meniscal repair on his right knee.

"It was a repair," McVeigh said. "Hopefully, he will make a full recovery to be ready for the start of spring practice."

Surgery was performed Drs. Greg Mathien and Matt Rappe of the Knoxville Orthopedic Clinic.

Thursdays of every game week, UTsports.com sits down with members of the Vols team or coaching staff to preview a key element of the upcoming game. This week, sports information graduate assistant Tony Williams speaks with senior linebacker Ryan Karl about his improved play recently and the Arkansas running attack.

The game kicks off at 12:30, and it has been mentioned around this conference before that the early game puts the home team at a disadvantage. Do you think it has any effect?

"I think it comes down to preparation before any of that. Football is football. I don't think it matters to the offense one way or the other, but the crowd can only be so much of an advantage. We still have to go out there and make our reads and execute, so I would say that's more talk than anything."

Your play has steadily improved in the last few games. What has been the difference recently?

"The game is catching back up to me. I was a little slow at the beginning of the season because I wasn't able to practice or scrimmage for two months before the season. It slowed me down mentally, making reads and things like that. Now it has caught back up with me, and week to week I am feeling better."

What are the keys to stopping the Arkansas run game?

"The key this week more than anything is to stay in our gaps and tackle well. If we can do that, we can more than likely stop their run. Their backs' job is to not let us tackle them on first contact, so we are going to have to do the best we can with that, stay in our gaps and put guys on the ground."

With the challenge the defense has in front of it, is there a different intensity level this week?

"Definitely, watching what they did against South Carolina and seeing everything in the media about how they are going to rush for 800 yards against us. We've been bet against all year, and we won some games that people said we weren't going to win. We like being the underdog as a defense and we are going to go out and make some plays."

How much of a motivation factor is last season's loss to Arkansas?

"It is a big one. We remember what they did to us last year, especially in the second quarter. We want to go out and make sure that doesn't happen again. We're pumped about the challenge, but we still have to execute."