Thursday Practice Report

Phillip Fulmer announced some key decisions after Thursday's practice. For the duration of the pre-season questions loomed in regards to who the Vols place-kicker would be and who would line up across the offensive front. Those questions are no longer a mystery.

"Our kicker will be James Wilhoit," Fulmer said. "I felt like giving the young guy a chance. He gets the ball up quick. I think he'll do very well."

Wilhoit will be kicking against one of the best special teams units he'll face all season. Fresno St. has blocked 20 extra points and field goals since 1997.

Phillip Newman, who was competing for the job, will kick-off.

Across the offensive line, Fulmer is going with experience. Tennessee will start senior Sean Young at right tackle, senior Chavis Smith at right guard, senior Scott Wells at center, senior Anthony Herrera at left tackle, and fourth year junior Michael Munoz at left tackle.

With Smith in the starting rotation, sophomore Cody Douglas will begin the game on the sidelines. However, Fulmer doesn't expect to keep him there long.

"Cody Douglas in my mind is a starter," said Fulmer. "He'll go in the second series and probably play both spots (right guard and right tackle). If we had an injury anywhere across the offensive line he'd be the first one to go to that spot."

Fulmer believes strongly in several second string offensive lineman, too. Jason Respert, Chuck Prugh, Richie Gandy, and Douglas have all put themselves in the mix.

"Those four guys for sure could very well get in the game," Fulmer said. "They're ready to help. Arron (Sears) is still a little ways away...not from an aggressive standpoint but from a knowledge standpoint."

It's been a long and winding road up to this point on the defensive line. Yet, after all of the injuries and academic questions, it looks like the team is ready to play.

Earlier in the week, freshman Tony McDaniel won his appeal and is now a full qualifier. On Thursday, sophomore LaRon Harris won his appeal.

Tennessee is still without defensive tackles Justin Harrell and J.T. Mapu for the opener. Although everything that could have turned out well did this week.

Fulmer seems to be especially anxious to get McDaniel onto the field.

"He's going to be right there in the middle of it," Fulmer said. He's a second team guy. He's got a lot of potential. It'll be fun to watch how he does. He's responsive and that's what you like to see."

Fulmer is not so optimistic about Harris who is overweight and not in the shape that he needs to be.

"I don't plan on him helping us that much on Saturday," Fulmer said. "If we have an emergency situation he could help us."

Nevertheless, the defensive front is much better off than they were just a few days ago.

A couple of other players who will be missing in action for some or all of Saturday's opener include sophomore running back Gerald Riggs and sophomore fullback Aaron Kirkland. Both players were ruled academically ineligible for the Peach Bowl. However, the duo put together solid spring semesters and summer terms to remain with the team.

On Thursday, Fulmer commended Riggs and Kirkland for their work ethic, but suspended them once again for some academic shortcomings during the summer.

Kirkland will not play versus Fresno St. "He owes me a game," said Fulmer. Riggs, on the other hand, will miss the first half.

"It's purely academic," Fulmer added. "I'm serious about them going to class and doing what they're supposed to do." The only other player Tennessee will not have for Saturday's game is freshman receiver Robert Meacham. Meacham, who underwent knee surgery, is out for 10-12 weeks.

The Vols will have a walk-through on Friday afternoon before taking the field at 3pm on Saturday.

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