D-tackle still a concern- Vols return to practice

In one sense, you could say that Tennessee's defensive tackle play has been consistent. It was the Vols' biggest concern heading into spring practice ... and it still is.

The Big Orange returned to the practice field today for the first time since spring break, and Phillip Fulmer conceded that his tackles -- Greg Jones, Mondre Dickerson, LaRon Harris, Terriea Smalls and Andre Taylor -- are nowhere near ready for the rigors of Southeastern Conference play.

''They've got a million miles to go,'' the head man said. ''They're not even close to playing at the tempo they need to play at.

''They don't understand. Greg (Jones) might a little bit because he's had some playing time. Mondre (Dickerson) has a lot of potential but consistency is the key there. He can be really good if he grows up but some of them don't have a clue.

''Matt McGlothlin has a clue about how to work,'' Fulmer added, referring to a 6-foot, 280-pound walk-on freshman from Fork Union, Va. ''He's kind of gotten everybody's attention a little bit.''

After a pause, though, the head man shook his head and added: ''But we're not nearly where we need to be.''

Probably the most talented of UT's defensive tackles, redshirt freshman Justin Harrell, will miss the remainder of spring drills. He recently underwent surgery to alleviate a stress fracture in his leg that has hampered him since he reported to campus last August.

''This is going to make his opportunity to be 100 percent in the fall a lot better,'' Fulmer said, ''so we went ahead and did it (surgery) during the spring break. The stress fracture he had from high school was still lingering, so we had to get that done.''

NOTES: Tailbacks Cedric Houston and Jabari Davis missed Tuesday's workout. Houston has a mild sprain and ''should be back next week,'' according to Fulmer. Davis has a broken bone in his hand and ''should be back pretty soon,'' the head man added. ... Safety O.J. Owens, a former prep All-American who has done little to date, made a nice break on a sideline route to intercept a ball during a passing drill. ... Linebacker Omar Gaither intercepted a screen pass thrown by James Banks and returned it for a touchdown. ... Gerald Riggs Jr. continues to impress with his power and balance. Banks made a couple of electrifying runs and converted cornerback Corey Larkins showed his running skills with a couple of nifty bursts.

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