Thursday Practice Report

Tennessee nixed its 11 on 11 scrimmage for the most part on Thursday. The move was made as a precautionary measure. Head Coach Phillip Fulmer said the team didn't need any more unecessary injuries as they head into the first game week of the 2003 campaign.

The work-out did give the team some much needed time to focus on Fresno St. The Vols first opponent will come to Knoxville ready to wage an aerial assault. However, if Tennessee's secondary can combat the Bulldogs the way they've fought each other so far, things should be looking good for the team.

Fulmer discussed the competition at cornerback following Thursday's work-out.

"You've got a three guy battle," said Fulmer. "Jason Allen if we played today would start the game. Antwan Stewart and Brandon Johnson are very much in the mix."

Johnson has shown the coaching staff quite a bit in his brief time on campus. Yet, his inexperience on the Division-I level seems to be holding him back a bit. Nevertheless, Fulmer likes what the juco transfer brings to the table.

"He's got ability to be a starter at corner or safety," said Fulmer.

Jonathan Wade will also be a part of the secondary this season. Fulmer said on Wednesday that Wade will be part of Tennessee's six defensive back Mustang package. Wade looks like he is embracing his new role.

"I consider it a blessing to go over to the defense and help out," said Wade. "The coaches wouldn't put me over there if I wasn't more than capable."

Other players making waves on the defensive side of the ball include junior co-captain Kevin Burnett. Burnett practiced lightly for the second consecutive day. Obviously, having Burnett on the field would be a huge advantage for the team.

"I'm hopeful by the weekend he'll be 100 percent," said Fulmer. "We're a better team with him than we are without him."

Should Burnett still not be ready to go by next week, the team would be lacking a leader. However, there are plenty of players ready to step into the fold at linebacker. One of those players is sophomore Marvin Mitchell.

"Marvin can play all three positions and that's a real plus for us," said Fulmer. "We're fortunate to have that luxury."

A couple of freshmen brought in this past year to help with the linebacking are Daniel Brooks and Jared Hostetter. However, the duo might be coming along a little slower than some anticipated.

"Both of them have ability," said Fulmer. "But they're not nearly ready to play a big role on a defensive game plan."

On the defensive line, Fulmer mentioned that if the season began today senior Mondre Dickerson and sophomore Greg Jones would be the starting tandem at tackle. Fulmer said the team could get a boost from J.T. Mapu earlier than expected, too.

"Mapu is making good progress, he might be back for the first game," Fulmer said.

Offensively, the team may still be without its two biggest signees, Robert Meacham and Jayson Swain. However, others are developing at a rapid rate.

"Bret Smith and some of the other guys have come through and really look good," Fulmer said.

Cody Douglas's diligent work ethic drew the praise of Fulmer, too.

Douglas, who came to UT a couple of years ago tipped the scales at over 350 pounds. Nowadays, he's a starter at right tackle. He's also shed about 50 pounds.

"I'm proud of what he's done in general," Fulmer said. "He's one of those guys that the program has been exceptionally good for."

Tennessee's annual senior dinner was scheduled for Thursday night. The team will practice again on Friday and has a controlled kicking scrimmage on Saturday.

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