Fulmer expects jucos to start

Vol football coach Phillip Fulmer doesn't go the ''quick fix'' route often, but he made an exception this year, signing junior college offensive tackle Albert Toeaina and juco defensive tackle Jesse Mahelona. Both project to be in the lineup when UT opens against Nevada-Las Vegas next fall.

''We do not sign junior college players unless we think they're going to be starters,'' Fulmer said mere hours before putting the Vols through their first practice of the spring. ''I would expect those two to have the type of spring that will put them in position to be starters for us ... or at least significant contributors.''

Another early enrollee, defensive end Antonio Reynolds, also has a chance to make his mark this spring.

''Coming from a prep school, rather than junior college, he doesn't quite have the maturity of those other two guys,'' Fulmer said. ''But I think he's a guy that will put himself in the mix.''

The head man said he is pleased that the 2004 team shows ''a lot of energy and a lot of focus,'' adding that: ''A real plus is the attitude and work ethic.''

Fulmer noted that this is a ''crucial spring'' for redshirt freshmen such as wideout Robert Meachem, wideout Bill Grimes, tight end Brad Cottam, offensive tackle Eric Young, defensive end Jared Hostetter, tailback Antonio Gaines and cornerback Roshaun Fellows. The head man said the same goes for sophomore safety Jarod Parrish, who ''didn't play a whole lot for us'' in 2003.

Hostetter was signed as a linebacker but will work at end this spring. Fulmer said that another linebacker, Omar Gaither, ''will get a look at safety. I'd like to get him on the field somewhere.''

Fulmer also praised a solid group of walk-ons, specifically mentioning defensive backs Ben Greene and Cory Clemons, wideout Jason Messing, offensive tackle Michael Frogg and tailback David Yancey. Fulmer also noted that two non-scholarshippers -- tight end Jake Finlayson and linebacker Nick Wilson -- ''already have put themselves in position to help.''


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