"After today we are basically finished with insertion," Fulmer said. "We‚ll be able to concentrate on what we‚re going to look like. One of those questions that will dictate what we‚ll look like is our quarterback situation. Tomorrow is really important for those guys."
C.J. Leak, Brent Schaeffer, and Erik Ainge will be the three signal callers with the most on the line. Leak came into the fall labeled the starter. As a sixth-year player, he brings plenty of experience to the equation. Yet, thinking quickly and making the proper reads at the line of scrimmage have plagued him to this point in his career.
"C.J. needs to throw the ball on time, manage the offense, and make good decisions," Fulmer said. "But that's anybody at any position. It's just so much more important at quarterback because you're running the team."
Schaeffer and Ainge have more of an upside and might give the Vols their best chance to win some early ballgames. However, you'd be hard pressed to find many true freshmen that were ready to handle the pressures of being the starter in an opener.
"We‚re going to try to get as many looks at those young one's as we can," Fulmer said. "Physically they can play the game. It's just a matter of how fast we go. Some of the stuff we threw at them today was really tough. I don't think they understood what they were doing or handled it very well. It's there first time so we can scheme around that to some degree. They've got to learn and go faster. It's not any different than Peyton Manning's first time or Casey Clausen's first time.
"They‚ve been very good at having poise and pretty good at decision making. Obviously they've got talent. I'm pleased with where they are at this point. They are grasping things and going very fast."
The running game will also be a key point of emphasis for Fulmer and his coaching staff. It's been a tight pre-season race between the incumbent Cedric Houston and Jabari Davis and Gerald Riggs. So far, Fulmer likes what he has seen from all three of them.
"I think they've had a good camp," Fulmer said. "It‚s a very competitive situation. You could take any of those guys. It's just who's going to come out of the pack."
Whether Gerald Riggs will be in the starting line-up remains to be seen. However, Fulmer didn't deny that Riggs has come a long way in this his third year on the team.
"Gerald is more consistent," Fulmer said. "He used to be a guy that looked good and then he'd bust a protection, fumble it, or get hurt and be out. Nothing was consistent about his game and then you had the off the field things going on. He's matured enough now that he looks like the type of back to help you in Southeastern Conference play.
I think he's finally got it. He‚s going to throw his hat in there and protect. He's running hard. He's got his assignments down. He‚s learned to practice well. It's just a maturing process. It takes some longer than others. I'm okay with where he is right now with everything."
DB ALERT: The secondary will be watched closely on Saturday, too. A quartet of cornerbacks have caught Fulmer's eye with their youthful exuberance. Jon Hefney, Jon Wade, Roshaun Fellows, and Antonio Gaines are coming along which could make it easier to slide Jason Allen over to safety until James Banks‚ three game suspension is lifted.
BACK IN ACTION: After missing Thursday's practice sessions, linebacker Kevin Simon had the pads back on. Simon had been bothered by a muscle strain in his ribcage area. David Yancey also returned to the team. The walk-on running back was tending to some family affairs for the last few days.
MISSING IN ACTION: On the injury front, an ingrown toenail kept receiver Bill Grimes on the sidelines. Tight end Victor McClure is expected to be out a couple of weeks with a sprained shoulder. Defensive end Jared Hostetter's sprained ankle will keep him on the shelf for a while. Marvin Mitchell, a linebacker and Bret Smith, a receiver, didn't practice on Friday either. None of the above are expected to scrimmage. Freshman linebacker Robert Ayers was seen leaving the field with an apparent shoulder injury during special teams work. His status for Saturday is unknown.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW: Defensive tackle Greg Jones is still waiting to see if he will be in school this fall. He was at practice but did not dress out for the fifth straight day. Fulmer said the team is holding out hope Arian Foster and Demonte Bolden might qualify, too. He said nothing is final until the drop/add portion of the semester is over.