Houston Likely to Start

He was the forgotten man of Tennessee's tailback corps all preseason, but Cedric Houston likely will start Sunday's opener against Nevada-Las Vegas.

''If the season opened today, Cedric Houston would be the starting tailback,'' head coach Phillip Fulmer said at his Tuesday news conference. ''That has as much to do with (pass) protections and blocking as anything.''

Asked how Houston has come from nowhere to move back on top at the position, Fulmer replied: ''It's nothing he's done that spectacular, versus the other guys. It's just that he has been the most consistent -- not just counting the scrimmages -- at handling the protections and things he needs to handle.''

Oft-criticized for his apparent lack of vision and running instincts, Houston was generally unproductive in preseason scrimmages. As a result, first-year running backs coach Trooper Taylor routinely listed him behind senior Corey Larkins and junior Gerald Riggs in recent discussions of the tailback race. Houston started in 2002 and 2003, though, and experience apparently has given him an edge in Fulmer's mind.

For what it's worth, the official depth chart for Sunday's game handed out Tuesday by UT sports information personnel lists the tailback position this way: ''Cedric Houston or Gerald Riggs.'' Larkins is listed third-team, Jabari Davis fourth-team and David Yancey fifth-team.

Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders, when asked about the tailback situation, replied: ''Obviously, Ced (Houston) is going to play, Gerald is going to play and I expect Corey Larkins to play some. But if Ced starts and Gerald goes in and starts running like crazy, I'd say Gerald will play more. Or vise-versa.''

Although he starred in UT's final preseason scrimmage, freshman tailback Arian Foster appears ticketed for a redshirt. Foster missed the first two weeks of preseason drills while being approved for eligibility by the NCAA Clearinghouse.

''Missing all the time he missed early has set him back a little bit,'' Sanders said. ''I don't really expect Arian to play. If he does, it won't be a whole lot.''

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