UT's Fulmer Discusses Key To Playing The Tigers

Comments from the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers are featured.

Knoxville, Tenn--Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer says that keeping Auburn's senior tailbacks under control will be a key for the Volunteers' hopes of victory in Saturday evening's showdown matching Top 10 football teams at Neyland Stadium.

Auburn, which is ranked eighth and ninth in the major polls, has an offense led by Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown. In Auburn's 28-21 victory over the Vols in 2003, Williams carried 36 times for 185 yards and Brown ran it 12 times for 65 yards. Fulmer says that his offense will need to stay on the field as long to take the pressure off the Tennessee defense.

"It's obviously important to keep them (Williams and Brown) off the field and make sure they have got the long field to go," Fulmer says. "They are really, really good on both sides of the ball. We have our own challenges on each side of the ball."

Kickoff for Saturday's game is set for 6:45 p.m. CDT and it will be nationally televised on ESPN. Tennessee, which is off to a 3-0 start, is ranked eighth and 10th in the major polls. Auburn leads the all-time series at 23-21-3, but Tennessee has a 5-1-1 advantage in the last seven contests. The Vols have wins over UNLV, Florida and Louisiana Tech this season.

Auburn enters the game at 4-0 with wins over Louisiana-Monroe, Mississippi State, LSU and The Citadel. All of Tennessee's games this season have been home night games while Auburn is playing their first night game and second on the road.

Tennessee entered the season with a pair of standout linebackers. Kevin Simon Kevin Simon tore an ACL against Florida and will miss the remainder of the season. Kevin Burnett left the game vs. Louisiana Tech in the third quarter with an ankle injury. "Kevin will be fine for the ball game," Fulmer says. "He's got a sprained ankle--not too bad. We had to put him on crutches (Saturday) night as a precaution. They X-Rayed it and it was negative. We expect him to go by Tuesday or Wednesday.

"We came out fairly healthy with bumps and bruises," Fulmer says. "We certainly realize the challenge we have ahead with Auburn. It's obviously a huge football game for both football teams.

In spring training C.J. Leak competed for the starting quarterback job with Rick Clausen, the younger brother of Casey Clausen, last year's starter for the Vols. In preseason neither of those players was impressive. Leak was moved to tight end and Clausen was dropped to third team on the depth chart behind a pair of true freshmen--Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer.

Ainge, a pocket passer, and Schaeffer, a scrambler, have split time at the position and have led the Volunteer offense to an average of more than 500 yards per game.

"Both of those kids have surpassed what you can really expect from a freshman," Fulmer says. "I want to make sure we sub both of them because both of them have (surpassed expectations).

"They are unusually poised and mature. It's happened really well for Erik. He sees the field so well and things are slowing down for him as far as the speed of the game and the way he is able to get the ball out there. I thought they were both good, but as I said earlier they are both better than what I had imagined at this point. And that's the reason why we made the move (to play them) so early."

After playing Florida two games ago, Fulmer's Vols are in a stretch of playing the Gators, Auburn and Georgia in three out of four games.

"We won't have any trouble getting up for the game," he says of Saturday night's contest vs. the Tigers. "We have got a run here that's really huge as far as a bunch of SEC games in a row. We've got to play hard, play smart, stay healthy and try to get through the rest of this thing unscathed if we can."


Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories