Tuesday Practice Report

KNOXVILLE - Heading into Tennessee's first day in full pads, head coach Phillip Fulmer likes the direction his team is taking. The 2004 Vols may not be the most talented bunch Fulmer has had in recent years. However, when you look up and down the roster, there is plenty of versatility and unselfishness all over the field.

The defensive line looked like it was going to be one of the big problems heading into the pre-season. Only three players on the team have division-one experience at defensive tackle. To alleviate that problem, defensive coordinator John Chavis and defensive line coach Dan Brooks have been mixing and matching several defensive ends at defensive tackle.

"We've worked Karlton Neal, Jason Hall, and Turk McBride inside at tackle," Fulmer said. "We're going to find the best guys and when you do that it just elevates you to another spot up the depth chart."

One of the player‚s who has benefited from some of the aforementioned moves is newcomer Antonio Reynolds. At 6-foot-3 and 265-pounds, Reynolds already has the look of a veteran defensive end.

"Antonio‚s gained about twenty pounds since he's been here," Fulmer said. "He has the kind of speed that we always look for. Technician-wise he‚s not where he needs to be, but he‚s got a great attitude. He's an outstanding worker and I think he's going to be a really good pass rusher."

On the other side of the ball, Fulmer is pleased with his offensive line. For the last couple of years, the line has under-achieved in most people's minds. However, a couple of new faces hope to have a big impact on this year's group.

Arron Sears played as a true-freshman in 2003. This year, Fulmer has high hopes that the 6-foot-4 315-pounder will take his game to another level.

"I think he is one of the best five (offensive lineman)," Fulmer said of Sears. "He's going to push somebody for a spot before it's all said and done. He can play any of the five positions."

Sears is battling Rob Smith and Cody Douglas for one of the two guard positions. Sears and Douglas also have the potential to play right tackle. So far this pre-season Albert Toeaina‚s 360-pound frame has inhabited that position. Yet, for the first time this year, Fulmer downplayed his ability.

"He‚s the newest guy in the equation," Fulmer said. „He's still learning. As big and as physical as he is, he needs to be a better technician."

Fulmer was much more complimentary of his receiving corps. Robert Meacham, Tony Brown, Jayson Swain, and Chris Hannon form the nucleus of this highly regarded group.

"I think we‚re off to our best start at receiver in my time here," Fulmer said. "The receivers are giving us a chance to have some big plays."

James Banks, who is suspended for the first three games of the season, could also provide some big play ability at the receiving position. Nevertheless, Fulmer likes Banks‚ chances to play in the secondary, too.

"I think Banks will help us on both sides," Fulmer said. "The priority right now is to get him ready on defense. I wouldn't have moved him if I wasn't comfortable with that group of receivers."

One player that Fulmer mentioned who has made tremendous strides in the defensive backfield is Jason Allen. In short, Allen possesses just about everything a coach could ask for in a player.

"Jason's had a big camp," Fulmer said. "He's really done well. He understands what he needs to be. He‚s a big cornerback that‚s a physical kind of guy. He's become very much a leader on the defensive team. He's a big play guy."

Furthermore, Fulmer said that if the need should arise, Allen can move to safety during nickel situations which could get either Jon Hefney, Jon Wade, or Roshaun Fellows into the game at the cornerback positions.

On the injury front, a few more Vols missed practice on Tuesday. Tight-end Victor McClure left early with a sprained right shoulder. Bill Grimes was out with an ingrown toenail. Grimes is expected to return either Thursday or Friday. Chris Heath did not participate because of medical reasons.

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