Thursday Practice Report

Who says lightning can't strike twice? After Tennessee's third practice of the 2003 campaign it looks as if the injury bug is back and biting harder then ever.

Junior wide receiver Derrick Tinsley showed up to practice on Thursday sporting a walking boot on his right foot.

According to head coach Phillip Fulmer, Tinsley sprained his ankle during drills on Wednesday. The bad luck doesn't end with Tinsley though.

Redshirt freshman Justin Harrell went down during a tackling drill with an ankle injury of his own.

"You've got to be SEC tough to play in this league," said Fulmer. "If you're going to play football, you're going to have some things happen from time to time. Both of these guys have been unfortunate with injuries, but we'll run on. We've got other good players at those positions that will get more work."

The news is not good for a variety of reasons. There was talk of Tinsley playing a role on both sides of the ball. As a wide receiver, Tinsley is thought to be one of the few playmakers at Casey Clausen's disposal. In the secondary, Tinsley had the potential to add depth and overall experience, two qualities sorely lacking for the team's last line of defense.

Harrell, on the other hand, is expected to play a major role on the Vols defensive line. After the graduation of Rashad Moore, Ed Kendrick, and Aubrayo Franklin, Harrell is being groomed to provide depth to a unit with no proven veterans.

In fact, the only defensive tackle with any meaningful SEC action is senior Mondre Dickerson. As a pre-season All-SEC selection, Dickerson will be counted on now more then ever. So far it seems as if Dickerson has the attitude to go with the accolades.

"When you're in the trenches you've got to be a little more vicious, and that's what I've figured out over the last year," said Dickerson.

If the defensive front hopes to be as strong as it's been in years past, Greg Jones, J.T. Mapu, and Matt McGlothlin must follow the lead of Dickerson.

Captain Constantin Ritzmann appears to be setting the tone for the defensive ends. Sophomore Parys Haralson will be battling Karlton Neal for the other starting end position. Jason Hall, another promising talent, was named most improved defensive player following the conclusion of spring drills in April.

The wide receivers still seem to be a unit garnering plenty of attention. All eyes were focused squarely on the speedsters who went toe-to-toe against against the secondary.

Freshman Robert Meacham continues to look impressive in all facets of the game. C.J. Fayton also looks poised to capitalize on a break-out performance in last year's Peach Bowl. James Banks is making remarkable moves all over the field. Meanwhile, Mark Jones should prove to be a fierce weapon, too.

After playing on defense and special teams during his first three years in the program, Jones is prepared to make a bold statement this season on offense.

"When he (Fulmer) came to me this spring I was ready to make the adjustment," Jones said. Jones had the opportunity to make the move to the other side of the ball last year. However, he felt that his best chance to see playing time came on defense in the 2002 season.

Nevertheless, Jones will still be a busy man this year. He expects to be involved in Tennessee's six defensive back mustang package. Jones believes he'll contribute on special teams as well.

The other skill spots on offense aren't in question concerning the starters. Casey Clausen is clearly the best man for the job at quarterback. Cedric Houston appears to be the best all-around running back amid a bevy of challengers. However, just because the starting roles aren't in question doesn't mean questions aren't looming.

Banks is splitting time at receiver and quarterback. Many believe he's the best athlete on the field. Therein lies the question. Does the coaching staff leave Banks at quarterback only to back-up Clausen? Or, do they show him off at receiver? Either way he will lose repetitions at one position.

"He's in a competitive situation as our back-up quarterback and we're trying to get him in a position to play receiver," Fulmer said.

As for the running backs, Houston returns after having a solid but injury plagued year. Gerald Riggs, although inexperienced, may be the best talent of the bunch. Corey Larkins could be the sleeper of the group after playing cornerback last season. Jabari Davis and Troy Fleming can pull double duty at fullback and/or running back.

"I'd like to see somebody come out of the pack, have a couple of great scrimmages and say 'I'm the guy'," said Fulmer.

In addition to Tinsley sitting out of practice and Harrell leaving early, a couple of other Vols were missing in action. Tony Brown did not participate due to an extracted tooth. Anthony Herrera is waiting to see if he will have one more year of eligibility pending his results from summer school which ended on Thursday.

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