Leak, Trooper steal show

C.J. Leak's powerful arm and Trooper Taylor's boundless enthusiasm were the highlights Saturday, as Tennessee's football team conducted Day 2 of spring practice.

Leak, a sixth-year senior bidding to succeed Casey Clausen as UT's starting quarterback, was exceptionally sharp. He hit C.J. Fayton in perfect stride on a 50-yard bomb and later threaded the needle on a post route to Tony Brown that would've produced another touchdown. Leak also threw the short and intermediate passes well, at one point drawing the exclamation ''C.J.'s hot today!'' from cornerback Jason Allen.

Leak made one throw over the middle that was picked off by Roshaun Fellows, who literally took the ball out of the hands of Jomo Fagan. Leak also made bad read, resulting in an interception that linebacker Kevin Simon returned some 25 yards. Leak must eliminate this type of mental mistake if he is to maintain the No. 1 job.

''C.J.'s always thrown it well; it's just on time (that's the key),'' head coach Phillip Fulmer said. ''He's doing better on time.''

Fulmer then displayed several sheets of paper with numbers and notations, adding: ''I'm charting him on every throw. I'm keeping exactly what he's doing and I show it to him after every practice period he's in.''

While Leak was the star of Day 2, the second-most noticeable presence was new running backs coach Trooper Taylor. After the Leak-to-Brown hookup, he raced downfield to leap into Brown's arms, singing ''Rocky Top, you'll always be home sweet home to me'' along the way. Following an acrobatic leaping catch by Jayson Swain, Taylor raced downfield to hug the receiver, then took the ball and emphatically spiked it. Later, when Fayton angrily shoved a defensive back who continued trying to strip the ball after a pass play was blown dead, Taylor rewarded the wideout's tenacity with an enthusiastic chest-bump and a big smile.

''Trooper brings a lot of energy to the practice field,'' Fulmer said, grinning. ''No question.''

Taylor's enthusiasm seemed infectious. After stripping the ball from tight end Brad Cottam, linebacker Kevin Burnett celebrated by punting the ball. Both the defensive and offensive players seemed unusually spirited.

''We've had two good days,'' Fulmer said moments after concluding the 2 1/2 hour workout. ''We've had two long practices but all the way through they've kept their tempo and energy up. I think the coaches have been energized by seeing some of the youthful guys out there playing so hard.''

One player who has improved significantly in recent months is LSU transfer Rick Clausen, who has improved his arm strength since last fall. He wasn't nearly as sharp as Leak but he showed good velocity on some of the ''out'' routes that require extra zip.

''Rick has got a chance,'' Fulmer said. ''He's in the quarterback hunt. But we'll have to see how it goes when the real bullets start flying.''

That will be Tuesday, Day 3 of spring practice and the first workout in pads.

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