Wednesday Practice Report

With the season opener kicking off in just 10 days, Tennessee worked on some fine tuning during Wednesday's brief but productive practice. Getting key players healthy and ready to play is a definite priority. The coaching staff also looks like they are finalizing some plans to get certain players on the field at key positions.

After reviewing the tape, head coach Phillip Fulmer re-affirmed his thoughts on Tuesday's full scale scrimmage.

"I don't think we were quite as sharp offensively as we had been," Fulmer said. "Our defense did make some strides, particulary in not giving up big plays which was a step in the right direction."

Apparently junior college transfer Brandon Johnson is still in the running to start at one cornerback slot. Johnson's athletic ability coupled with his size make him a viable candidate for the job. Jason Allen is still fighting for a spot at corner according to Fulmer though.

Allen has the ability to move over to safety if the situation should arise. The competition is rigid there, too. Freshmen Corey Campbell and Jarod Parrish have gotten the attention of Fulmer and defensive backs coach Larry Slade.

Fulmer said that when the defense goes to its six defensive back package, expect to see Mark Jones and converted wide receiver Jonathan Wade in the secondary.

On the defensive line, the staff did make one move to gain some depth. Freshman Eric Young has moved over from the offensive line.

"We looked at Eric Young on defense today for a while," said Fulmer.

"We need to get him in the mix. He had a really good scrimmage last night. He took a huge step. Right now we have a bigger need at defensive tackle than at offensive guard."

Moving Young seems like the sensible thing to do at this stage of the game. With depth being a major issue on the defensive front, an extra body would certainly alleviate some pressure. Besides, Fulmer feels confident that the offensive line could go two deep.

Michael Munoz, Anthony Herrera, Scott Wells, Chavis Smith, and Cody Douglas look like the starters if the season was to begin today. As for the others, Arron Sears has shown the ability to play as a true freshman. Jason Respert has started in the program for the last two years. Chuck Prugh is as consistent a player as the team has. Mix those three players in with Rob Smith and Sean Young who was starting before he was slowed by a knee injury and the Vols have ten players to juggle on the offensive line.

Junior linebacker Kevin Burnett was limited but did practice for five out of the ten periods. Burnett is still hampered by a sore knee that has not responded to rehab the way the medical staff expected. It's still up in the air whether or not Burnett will play against Fresno St. Should he be on the sidelines on August 30th, sophomore Jason Mitchell would get the starting nod.

In the offensive backfield, Cedric Houston is still the odds on favorite to start at tailback. However, Gerald Riggs continues to impress coaches and onlookers alike. His vision and overall athletic ability make him arguably the best runner on the team.

"He could go in a game and do alright," said Fulmer. "There's a few things that get him every now and then. I do think he's a big part of what we do."

Finally, on special teams, Fulmer walked away impressed with what Phillip Newman showed. "It was great to see Phillip Newman have the night that he had," said Fulmer. "That was the most consistent kicking exhibition he's had since he's been here. Obviously that turns the heat up on (James) Wilhoit quite a bit."

Fulmer is rethinking his decision to have another scrimmage on Thursday. At this point the most important thing is showing up healthy for the season opener. That would mean the only scrimmage of any sort the team has left would be played on Saturday.


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