Friday Practice Report

<!--Default For Tennessee is to ignore-->Tennessee's string of bad luck with keeping defensive tackles on the field took another turn for the worse on Friday. The team learned that they would not have the services of junior college transfer <!--Default NodeId For Zarnell Fitch is 633792,2003--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:633792]>Zarnell Fitch</A>.

"The junior college did not process his courses just right so he will not be with us this year," head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "He'll have to return to a junior college to get his degree, or he can go to a Division II school. It's really a shame for the young man."

Fitch would have added some depth at a position where three key players have fallen to injury so far this pre-season.

Justin Harrell, who fractured his foot in non-contact drills two weeks ago is out for another 4-6 weeks.

However, Fulmer expects sophomores J.T. Mapu and David Ligon on the field next week after sitting out with injuries of their own.

Having Tony McDaniel eligible to play would solve some problems, too. Tennessee is waiting to see if McDaniel will be a full or a partial qualifier. Fulmer expects to hear something from the NCAA on Tuesday.

Eric Young is another piece to the puzzle at defensive tackle. After moving over from offensive guard earlier in the week, Young has been out of action with a sore shoulder. However, it looks as if Young has the tools to play his new position.

"Physically he can run well enough which is a big plus," said Fulmer. "He's got a good attitude."

As for the defensive tackles already in place, Fulmer likes the direction the of the group. He said Mondre Dickerson and Greg Jones would be the starters if there was a game today. Matt McGlothlin and McDaniel shouldn't be overlooked either.

"Mondre's done well and Greg's getting better," Fulmer said. "Matt gives you good play and McDaniel's an excellent prospect."

In the defensive backfield it looks as if Fulmer is encouraged about some of the possibilities. The mix of youth and experience is a good blend for the team. Jabari Greer, Rashad Baker, and Gibril Wilson are each returning seniors. Next in line is a talented group of newcomers and novices.

"I do like the attitude of the bunch back there, particularly Brandon Johnson," Fulmer said. "I think he's going to be like Gibril was last year. It took him a little time but he pushed somebody out of a spot. I think that's what's getting ready to happen."

Mark Jones and Jonathan Wade are two players who should see plenty of action on the defensive side of the ball, too. However, both are converted wide receivers. Fulmer said Jones and Wade will practice about seventy percent of the time with the offense and thirty percent of the time with the defense. Fulmer would also like to see some of the other defensive backs rise to the occasion and take back some of what could have been their's.

"That would really make me mad if I was one of those other defensive backs that they're coming over there and taking my time," said Fulmer. "The best thing you've got as a motivator is playing time."

"We've solidified ourself some at corner, we've got a good plan there," Fulmer said. "We're still going to need the young safties (Jarod Parish and Corey Campbell) so we've got some depth there. Saftey is more difficult to learn than corner."

The lone contingency plan in the secondary should the injury bug take another swipe at the team involves Jason Allen switching positions to safety and Brandon Johnson moving in at cornerback.

The offensive backfield has seen a tremendous amount of activity between four players. Cedric Houston, Jabari Davis, Gerald Riggs, and Corey Larkins all bring something different to the team.

"Ced is the most consistant," said Fulmer. "Jabari is lighter and running better. Riggs has a lot of ability. Larkins gives us another dimension. I don't see where anybody's come out of the pack but the whole pack has gotten better."

Fulmer went on to say that Houston is the starter. On the offensive line, Sean Young has had a solid week of practice after returning from a knee injury that kept him sidleined for a few days. The only problem for Young is that Cody Douglas has taken full advantage of his time on the field. Douglas has started at right tackle ever since.

"I think those two are competing for a starting position right now," Fulmer said. "Regardless of whether they start they'll both play."

Finally, on a special teams note, a darkhorse could be emerging as the Vols next place-kicker. The well traveled Ryan Fusco has caught Fulmer's eye.

"Ryan Fusco has made it real interesting all of a sudden," Fulmer said as he described his search to find a place-kicker.

Fusco is a walk-on from Memphis. However, the road he has traveled to get to Knoxville is much more complicated than heading east on I-40.

Fusco went west to Arizona where he toiled behind one of the Wildcat's special teamers. After a year at Arizona, Fusco attended a junior college for a semester. Now the walk-on is shooting for a spot with Tennessee.

Saturday's kicking scrimmage might reveal whether or not Fusco laces them up for UT this season. After all, Alex Walls who graduated last year, started his career in Knoxville as a walk-on.

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