Banks, Wade star in scrimmage

Parttime quarterback <!--Default NodeId For James Banks is 669100,2003--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:669100]>James Banks</A> and parttime cornerback <!--Default NodeId For Jonathan Wade is 669120,2003--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:669120]>Jonathan Wade</A> were fulltime stars -- at wide receiver -- as <!--Default For Tennessee is to ignore-->Tennessee held a full-scale scrimmage Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

Banks outleaped Antwan Stewart to make a spectacular touchdown catch in the right corner of the end zone on the fourth play of the scrmmage. The grab came on approximately a 20-yard fade route from Casey Clausen.

Banks later outbattled Jason Allen to make an eye-popping catch at the goal line. Allen was flagged for interference, but Banks managed to make the grab anyway. This pass also came from Clausen and also covered around 20 yards.

Banks subsequently beat Allen again -- this time during a two-minute drill -- to make a diving TD grab in the back-left corner of the end zone. This one covered roughly 15 yards.

Making Banks' catches particularly impressive was the fact he was reasonably well covered each time. He is rapidly emerging as the kind of big-play threat Tennessee sorely lacked after Kelley Washington was hurt last fall.

Head coach Phillip Fulmer conceded that Banks ''made a couple of nice plays. James is making some strides but still needs to be more consistent. He's a very, very fine athlete.''

Wade was nearly as impressive as Banks. His first big play saw him literally take a pass out of the hands of juco transfer Brandon Johnson as the two fell to the ground, turning a would-be interception into a 20-yard gain.

Wade subsequently turned a short reception from Banks in the right flat into an 80-yard touchdown play, zooming past Johnson and outrunning the safeties.

Wade, whose hands have been erratic throughout his career, made another nice catch moments later, gathering in a 15-yarder from Banks.

''It was good to see him make a play or two,'' Fulmer said of Wade. ''He's a hard guy to catch if he gets in the open field.''

Wade also figured prominently in the biggest hit of the preseason ... as the victim. Coming across the middle on a slant route, he was annihilated by free safety Rashad Baker. The force of the collision had observers buzzing and sent Baker's helmet flying six yards downfield.

With Banks performing so impressively at receiver, C.J. Leak quarterbacked the No. 2 offense. Leak performed reasonably well in his quest to supplant Banks as the No. 2 QB.

''C.J. took another nice step forward,'' Fulmer said. ''There are still a few things from a management standpoint that he needs to continue to work on.''

While the offense showed some explosiveness, the defense struggled most of the scrimmage. The defensive line mounted almost no pass rush and didn't win very many battles in the running game.

''Defensively, we obviously gave up too many big plays to call it a success,'' Fulmer said, subsequently adding: ''We could sit here and bash 'em but we had several guys on defense who didn't scrimmage today. I'm hopeful that when those guys get back out there, we'll all come together and be all right.''

Brandon Johnson, burned by Wade on the 85-yarder, atoned late in the scrimmage by intercepting a Banks bomb and returning it some 40 yards.

Fulmer noted that Johnson ''got torched'' by Wade but ''came back with maybe the play of the day with that interception.''

Statistically, Casey Clausen completed 13 of 23 passes for 163 yards and four touchdowns. Leak was 5 of 8 for 56, Rick Clausen 2 of 4 for 75, Banks 3 of 7 for 96 yards and freshman Bo Hardegree 1 of 4 for 4 yards.

''I was really impressed with the way Casey managed the game, made some throws,'' Fulmer said.

Wade led all receivers with 115 yards on three catches. Banks added 60 yards on four receptions. Freshman Bret Smith had two catches for 77 yards, including a 60-yard TD grab from Rick Clausen. Tony Brown (2 for 28 yards) and Chris Hannon (2 for 18) also had multiple catches.

The rushers didn't break any long runs but generally produced in the Orange Area. Gerald Riggs carried 18 times for 48 yards and three scores. Jabari Davis added 13 carries for 39 yards and three more TDs. Cedric Houston chipped in five carries for 20 yards and a TD.

Defensive leaders were linebacker Omar Gaither (6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and 2 sacks), linebacker Marvin Mitchell (5 tackles, 1 assist, 1 TFL), tackle Greg Jones (4 tackles, 1 sack), cornerback Antwan Stewart (2 tackles, 2 pass breakups) and tackle/end Cory Anderson (3 tackles, 1 sack).

In goalline drills, Casey Clausen shocked the defense -- and practice observers -- by hitting 300-pound tight end Victor McClure with a five-yard touchdown pass. McClure is a converted offensive tackle not known for his route-running skills or his hands. Casey also found Banks with a three-yard TD pass on a slant.

Tennessee spent considerable time working on its two-minute drill. Cedric Houston would've had a 60-yard TD play on a screen pass except that he tried to cut back and tripped over center Scott Wells, who was hustling to block for him downfield. As it was, the play went for 24 yards.

Finally, Saturday was not a good day for the kicking game.

James Wilhoit missed his first two PAT attempts but made a 25-yard field goal and two subsequent conversion attempts. Phillip Newman made all four of his PAT attempts but missed a 31-yard field goal attempt.

Fulmer was so concerned by the kicking that he held some unscheduled field goal drills following the scrimmage. Wilhoit missed from 32 yards, hit from 32, missed from 37, then clicked from 42, 45 and 51 yards. Newman hit from 32, 32 and 37, missed from 42, hit from 45, then missed from 51.

''The kickers struggled during the scrimmage,'' Fulmer said. ''They kicked a little better in the drill work at the end. I really hadn't intended to do that but I thought (they needed to) for their confidence. They're better kickers than that -- both of them are -- and I think they'll be fine now that they got this one out of their system. Better now than later, I guess.''


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