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This item appeared in The Times & Free Press on Friday, December 31, 1999.

[Times & Free Press: UT's Top Receiver Still Hampered]

UT's Top Receiver Still Hampered

Assistant Sports Editor

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Cedrick Wilson hasn't been his usual up-tempo and chipper sort of interview.

The University of Tennessee wide receiver hasn't been his normal backpack of bubbling energy on the practice field either.

Wilson's playing status for Sunday evening's Fiesta Bowl against Nebraska is iffy. He'll play, but neither he nor the UT coaching staff have any idea how much or how long.

When the team has gone through it's pre-practice stretching regimen, Wilson has stood to one side. When the wide receivers have broken into their individual drills, he's watched, participating only by offering a pointer or a word of encouragement.

"God works in mysterious ways and it's apparent to me that my time is not now," said the junior from Memphis, who finished as the Vols' leading receiver (57 catches, 827 yards).

Wilson is severely slowed by a groin injury suffered a couple of weeks ago and that injury comes on the heels of a mid-season hamstring pull that severely limited his effectiveness.

"We've got him taking it easy. We want to make sure he'll be able to play on Sunday," said receivers coach Pat Washington after Wilson caught just three passes -- and they were on short, quick routes -- in practice. "I don't know how much he'll play."

When asked if the rest in practice would ensure his playing Sunday, Wilson shrugged. "I really don't know," he said. "I'm not going to worry about it. I just want to win this football game. I'm looking for David Martin to have a big game and for Eric (Parker) and Donte (Stallworth) to step up."

Parker was the Vols' second-leading receiver with 30 catches and Stallworth was third with 23.

However, the UT staff may be looking long and hard at Martin, who averaged little more than a catch per game (13-177 yards). The 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior will find himself going against Nebraska cornerbacks Ralph Brown and Keyuo Craver, whose listed 5-10 heights must have been taken while they were standing on tip-toes.

"I'm working hard. Ced hasn't been able to practice too much so I'm just preparing like I'll have to fill his shoes," Martin said. "I have to step up. The only other receiver close to being a veteran is Eric."

'Not Saying Nothing'

This time a year ago, center Spencer Riley made headlines across the country after he castigated national media, specifically ESPN-TV and CNN, for what he called a lack of respect for the Volunteers.

This year as UT met the media en mass at Sun Devil Stadium, Riley stayed up in the stands, perfectly content to be a non-story.

"I'm not saying nothing," the 6-3, 300-pound senior said.

"But, Spencer, don't you believe what you said last year?" he was asked.

"I'm not saying nothing," he replied.

Riley got himself in some hot water with the coaching staff last year for his comments and was determined he wasn't going to do it again.

Numbers Are Down

After last year's glut of 1,400 media members, Fiesta Bowl officials seem relieved that numbers are down this year.

Excluding ABC, which is televising the game, media credential requests are right at 400.

Wistrom Doubtful

Nebraska tight end Tracey Wistrom, whose 26.8 yards-per-catch average led the Cornhuskers, is "very doubtful," for Sunday's game, coach Frank Solich said Thursday morning.

Wistrom, who missed the Big 12 championship game with a knee injury, had practiced earlier in the week, but then fell on his knee.

"His knee was in good shape, but not quite where it needed to be in order to play a good football game," Solich said.

Early To Bed?

The old saying may be "early to bed, early to rise," but for Tennessee's players Thursday it was more along the lines of 'please the coach, get through early."

Head coach Phillip Fulmer cut practice short by a good half-hour as a way of expressing to the team his appreciation for their hard work.

Most were headed back to team headquarters at the Buttes Resort for a dip in the pool.

The Vols began curfews Wednesday (midnight local time) and had to be in at 11 beginning that night.

Honors Visitor

David Stone, greens superintendent at The Honors, was among the visitors at practice Wednesday afternoon and was greeted quite amicably by the UT coaching staff, in particular those who play golf and have been guests at the Ooltewah course.
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