Monday Practice Report

Tennessee opened up its first week of game preparations in 90-plus degree weather at Haslam Field on Monday. The Vols are getting ready for what could be a very dangerous Fresno St. team that visits Knoxville this weekend. The Bulldogs have made a habit of notching some early season upsets in the past. The offense that Fresno St. puts on the field is the biggest reason why the team poses such a threat.

"Fresno is a tremendous challenge for the secondary," said Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer. "They've thrown and run for a ton of yards against some really good opponents."

The Vols defense should look to shut down the high powered attack of Fresno with a steady dose of pressure on the quarterback coming from the linebackers and defensive line.

In an attempt to get one of the team's key components ready for the season opener, co-captain junior linebacker Kevin Burnett saw a bit of full speed action during Monday's practice.

On the other hand, UT's defensive front is still not at full strength. For the record, it may not be at half strength. Only Mondre Dickerson, Greg Jones, and Matt McGlothlin, a walk-on, will see guaranteed action on Saturday.

"I think other than defensive tackle we're about where we need to be," Fulmer said. "For example we've got a couple injuries. We'd like to be in better shape."

Justin Harrell, David Ligon, and J.T. Mapu all missed practice once again on Monday. Harrell is not expected back any time soon. He is recovering from a fractured foot. However, Fulmer expressed some hope last week that Ligon and Mapu could have returned.

Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel is still waiting to hear if he will be a full-qualifier. An announcement on McDaniel's status is expected on Tuesday.

Offensively, Fulmer seemed to be pleased with the progress the unit has made across the board. "I think we're on a good track to be where we need to be," Fulmer said.

"The receiving corps has come around. Our quarterback is playing really good, our backs are running hard, our offensive line seems do be doing pretty well."

The only thing Fulmer would like to see more of on the offensive side of the ball is some depth at tight end. Currently, Victor McClure is the starter. McClure, a converted offensive lineman, is a bullish blocker.

However, Tennessee will need somebody else to emerge when they go into their two tight-end formation.

On the offensive line, sophomore Cody Douglas was moved inside to right guard from tackle on Monday. The shake-up put senior Chavis Smith on the bench and Sean Young in at right tackle. Fulmer has said repeatedly that he will put his best five on the field.

Young, a senior, has had his best pre-season since he came to Knoxville according to Fulmer. During part of the pre-season, injuries forced him to the sidelines. However, when healthy Young is solidly in the mix.

Gerald Riggs and Jayson Swain returned to practice on Monday as well. Riggs has been nursing an ankle injury as of late. Swain, a freshman, missed the entire pre-season because of a groin injury.

Swain's mix of size and speed make him an attractive target at receiver.

"He's a good athlete," Fulmer said. "He'll help us this season. There's no question about that. How quickly, I don't know."

Finally, on special teams, it looks as if the race to be this year's place-kicker could go down to the wire. After that, Fulmer may be making a decision on a weekly basis between James Wilhoit, Phillip Newman, and Ryan Fusco.

"The kicking game is a good competitive situation," said Fulmer. "All of them are kicking pretty good."

Tuesday marks the first media day of the 2003 season.


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