Vols hold second major scrimmage

KNOXVILLE-Tennessee had their second major scrimmage of the spring on Saturday afternoon inside Neyland Stadium. Defensively the team wasn't even close to full strength. However, it didn't seem to matter as the offense is still 0-for spring practice.

Head coach Phillip Fulmer indicated linemen Parys Haralson, Jesse Mahelona, and Justin Harrell did not play. Several others in the linebacking corps and secondary did not participate because of various injuries.

"The defense set the tempo again for the day," Fulmer said. "Offensively it's all about mistakes. If you make mistakes than you‚re not going to move the football. Defensively we're just whooping their butts and making them like it."

Injuries to some offensive players have slowed the process of establishing some continuity across the line of scrimmage.

In addition to playing without Rob Smith on the offensive line, Cody Douglas played, but could miss some practice time because of knee surgery to clean up a previous injury.

For the newcomers that did see action, Fulmer says he needs them to be much more physical. Regardless of which five comprised the offensive line, quarterbacks Erik Ainge, Brent Schaeffer, and Rick Clausen are having a tough time hooking up with their depleted receiving corps.

"We've got three quarterbacks that can play," Fulmer said. "But it's difficult right now (to evaluate them). We throw it out there and the protection breaks down. It's difficult to be close to what I think we'll look like in the fall."

However, Arian Foster did prove to be one of the few bright spots on offense. He had a couple of strong runs mixed with power and agility.

"It looks like he's putting himself in a position to help us," Fulmer said of the red-shirt freshman.

Another red-shirt freshman making several nice plays on defense was Robert Ayers. Ayers is coming off of shoulder surgery and seems poised for a breakout year.

Since coming to Knoxville last fall as a linebacker, Ayers says he‚s added over 30 pounds to his frame that has allowed him to make the move to defensive end.

"Robert Ayers got lots of work," Fulmer said. "He doesn't know beans about playing defensive end, but he's showing up a lot."

In the secondary, Jon Wade looks like he is making some strides to be in the mix when the fall rolls around. Wade had an interception on Saturday.

"Jon Wade had a good scrimmage," Fulmer said. "He had four or five good looking plays. I want him to dedicate himself to football and be a part of the team. I think it‚s worked out great for him and us the steps that he's taken."

Safety Antwan Stewart also gave the team a lift. According to Fulmer, Stewart was cleared for contact and saw more snaps than originally anticipated.

Finally, Fulmer announced that Parys Haralson, Jason Allen, Jesse Mahelona, Cody Douglas, Rick Clausen, and Rob Smith were named captains. Clausen has certainly earned the honor. After transferring to UT from LSU, he had to sit out for a year. Last year, he began the season as the Vols fourth option at quarterback. When CJ Leak decided to change positions, Clausen said he wanted to be the best third string quarterback in the country. Following injuries to Ainge and Schaeffer, his words proved to be prophetic as he led the Vols to a couple of key wins down the stretch of the 2004 season, an SEC Championship appearance and a Cotton Bowl victory.

"I think that it‚s a great statement about college football," Fulmer said. "He'll be an outstanding leader for us whether he's the starter or not. Rick Clausen is a Tennessee Volunteer through and through."

Tennessee has two more scrimmages scheduled, but that could change depending on the amount of fundamental work Fulmer thinks the team might need.

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