Attack sputters ... again

Thursday's situational scrimmaging saw Tennessee's offense operating at midseason form. Unfortunately, it was operating at midseason form of 2002 and 2003.

In other words, the attack unit wheezed, coughed, sputtered and limped throughout the afternoon. Still, head coach Phillip Fulmer tried to find a silver lining as he assessed a 40-play scrimmage that featured 20 plays each by the first and second units.

''There were good plays on both sides,'' he said. ''It was good to see our defense continue to bow its neck and stop people down close. We've moved the football as an offense this spring; we just haven't gotten it into the end zone like we'd like to.''

That's largely because of the erratic play of first-team quarterback C.J. Leak and second-teamer Rick Clausen. Neither has shown the consistency needed to sustain drives of more than 30-40 yards. As a result, Fulmer's March vow that he'd have a No. 1 quarterback named by the end of spring ball now appears to be unrealistic.

''The quarterback situation is a real battle,'' the head man said. ''Both of them at times have done some good things; neither one of them has pulled away from the other. We'll see how that shakes out as we go through next week.

''I said at the beginning of spring that I'd like to have a starter named by the end of spring practice but I can't do that right now.''

INJURY REPORT: After losing first-team cornerback Antwan Stewart to a torn ACL last week, Tennessee lost first-team free safety Corey Campbell to a knee contusion on Thursday. The severity of the injury and the prospects for Campbell's return are to be determined. The Vols already were thin in the secondary, having lost 2003 starters Gibril Wilson, Rashad Baker and Jabari Greer to graduation, along with nickel back Mark Jones. On a positive note, cornerback Jonathan Wade (on loan from the track team) participated in the scrimmage, although he wore a green jersey limiting his contact.

The Vols will break for the Easter Holiday, returning to the practice field on Tuesday and Thursday before holding their annual Orange & White Game next Saturday.

Scrimmage highlights were as follows:

• Leak opened the scrimmage by splitting two defenders with a perfectly thrown eight-yard strike to Jayson Swain.
• Linebacker Kevin Burnett bolted into the backfield to throw Cedric Houston for a four-yard loss on a toss sweep. A few plays later, Burnett broke through to sack Leak for a five-yard loss. Several plays later, Burnett sniffed out a fake field goal and threw holder John Henderson for a 10-yard loss.
• Leak made a quick toss to 310-pound tight end Victor McClure, who easily broke an attempted leg tackle by safety Brandon Johnson.
• Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel batted down a pass by Leak.
• Clausen hit Bill Grimes for an eight-yard gain.
• Thanks to a busted assignment, Tony Brown was wide open in the left corner of the end zone for what would've been a 30-yard touchdown play. Leak didn't see him, however, and threw an incompletion into the right corner of the end zone. Understandably distraught, the usually soft-spoken Brown loudly voiced his displeasure.
James Wilhoit hit his first six field goal tries -- twice each from 27 yards, 31 yards and 33 yards. After missing twice from 37 yards, he connected on the third try. Wilhoit subsequently hit three times from 27 yards, hit from 33, then missed from the same distance. He made a 42-yarder and later hit a 36-yarder. All told, he was 13 of 16 -- a vast improvement over his previous two performances.
• Defensive end Antonio Reynolds batted down a pass by Clausen.
• In a first-and-goal at the 10-yard line drill, Cedric Houston broke three tackles in weaving his way to the end zone. He scored again two plays later on a four-yard ramble.
• Still in goalline drills, Clausen hit Robert Meachem for a 10-yard touchdown in the left corner of the end zone and shortly thereafter hit him with another 10-yarder in the right corner of the end zone.
• Walk-on tailback David Yancey broke an off-tackle play and scooted 25 yards against the No. 1 defense.
• On second-and-five at the defense's 30-yard line, linebacker Jason Mitchell belted Leak for a 10-yard sack. On third-and-15, cornerback Roshaun Fellows and Burnett then scissored Leak at the end of a four-yard scramble.
• Linebacker Omar Gaither sacked Clausen for a loss of seven.
• Clausen hit Meachem for a 10-yard gain
• Rolling to his right, the lefthanded Clausen made a nice throw to Swain for a gain of around 20 yards.
• Clausen hit C.J. Fayton for a 10-yard gain. Fayton fumbled but recovered.
• After marching to the 17-yard line, the No. 1 offense came unglued. On first down, Jason Respert sent a shotgun snap well over Clausen's head, resulting in a 15-yard loss. On second down, another high snap forced Clausen to rush a pass that fell incomplete. On third and 25, LaRon Harris sacked Clausen for a seven-yard loss.
• Houston rambled 14 yards against the No. 2 defense.
• Redshirt freshman cornerback Antonio Gaines made a nice play to break up a Leak pass intended for Bill Grimes.
• Rolling to his right, Leak attempted to buy some time with a pump fake. The ball slipped from his grasp, however, and was picked up by Omar Gaither, who bolted around 35 yards to paydirt.
• Defensive tackle Greg Jones sacked Leak for a five-yard loss.
• Clausen hit Meachem for an 11-yard gain.

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