Juco defensive tackle Jesse Mahelona got a little hot under the collar during the Tennessee Drill and also decided to wage war after the whistle had sounded. Given how passive the Vols looked in their season-ending Peach Bowl loss to Clemson, Tuesday's fisticuffs may be a good sign.
''It's not something you condone,'' Fulmer said, ''but it tells you the energy level is pretty high.''
When the Vols weren't throwing punches, they were throwing their bodies around in an exceptionally physical workout that brought a smile to the head man's face.
''I think we'll be a better team if we have good contact for the rest of the spring,'' Fulmer said.
The defense seemed to get the better of it in nine-on-eight work. Mahelona shot into the backfield on back-to-back plays to trip up ballcarriers. The offense made some big plays, however, during some subsequent scrimmaging.
''I thought the defensive front at times in the nine-on-eight won it kind of handily,'' Fulmer. ''But the scrimmage was a little different when it was 11-on-11.''
No. 1 tailback Cedric Houston made the day's best run, hitting a brick wall in the middle of the line, then bouncing outside for 40 yards. He also broke loose for a 17-yarder up the gut against the No. 1 defense. Jabari Davis, Gerald Riggs, Jr., and Corey Larkins also broke tackles en route to nifty runs.
''I saw a couple of plays made by the running backs,'' Fulmer said. ''They ran hard and held the ball really well. We had a couple of guys come out of piles, which was good to see.''
No. 1 quarterback C.J. Leak continued to impress, making several nice throws that produced big gains. He also had a five-yard scramble during the scrimmaging.
''I thought C.J. did OK for his first scrimmage as the Tennessee quarterback,'' Fulmer said.