Foster shines in scrimmage

Arian Foster, who turned some heads with his gliding running style in a scrimmage last August, was at it again in Saturday's fullscale scrimmage at Neyland Stadium. The difference? Last fall he did his damage against third-team defenders; this time he did it against the best defenders the Vols can put on the field.

Foster made one run so dazzling it sent running backs coach Trooper Taylor tumbling head over heels in celebration. Here's a recap:

On a fourth-and-two at the defense's 45-yard line, Foster took a handoff from Rick Clausen and started around left end. Hemmed in by five defenders, he cut back sharply, juked one defender, then broke four tackles en route to a spectacular 10-yard gain that had teammates howling their approval.

Asked afterward why he didn't just take a loss on the play rather than risk an even bigger loss, Foster replied: ''You never just take the loss. You've got to get a feel for it, I guess. There's times when you just know they're not going to bring you down.

''It's pretty much all heart. That's what it all comes down to.''

Foster, a 6-foot-1, 211-pound redshirt freshman from San Diego, signed with Tennessee in February of 2004 but was late joining the team because of a delay with the NCAA Clearinghouse. Even after missing most of preseason drills, he looked so good in the final preseason scrimmage last August that Taylor suggested he not be redshirted. However, the Vols already had three veteran tailbacks (Cedric Houston, Gerald Riggs and Jabari Davis), so head coach Phillip Fulmer decided Foster wouldn't get enough carries to warrant burning a year of eligibility.

Now that Houston and Davis are gone, Foster is battling to be the chief backup to Riggs. He took a big step in that direction Saturday. In addition to his 10-yard ramble, he had a 15-yard burst, a 12-yard scamper fueled by a nifty move, two nine-yard runs and a five-yarder. UT's official stats showed him with 61 yards on 12 carries.

Former walk-on David Yancey also showed some shiftiness from the tailback spot. Now packing 198 pounds on his 5-foot-8 frame, he turned in runs of 12, 11, 10, 7 and 6 yards. He ran over a defensive back on the 11-yarder. Yancey was credited with 41 yards on six carries.

Riggs, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2004, saw very limited action. He carried just three times for 4 yards. JaKouri Williams carried eight times for minus-3 net yards.

Thanks to unseasonably cold temperatures and swirling winds, none of Tennessee's quarterbacks had much success throwing the ball. Erik Ainge was 3 of 12 for 17 yards, Brent Schaeffer 4 of 11 for 31 yards and Rick Clausen 4 of 9 for 22 yards. v ''It wasn't a great day to throw the football for the quarterbacks,'' Fulmer conceded, ''but there's going to be days like this we'll have to play in. That's the reason we wanted to come on out and be outside.''

The leading receivers were Bret Smith (3 catches for 26 yards), Josh Briscoe (3 for 22) and JaKouri Williams (2 for 11).

Tennessee's defense pitched a shutout, allowing no touchdowns in the two-hour workout. The offense's best possession moved from its 44-yard line to a second-and-one at the defense's 6-yard line only to fizzle. Foster was stopped for no gain on second down, then a false start penalty (apparently against freshman Ell Ash) moved the ball back to the 11. The drive stalled at this point, thanks to a pair of incomplete passes by Schaeffer.

Defensively, the clearcut standout was senior linebacker Omar Gaither, who seemed to make half of the day's tackles. UT's stat sheet listed him with 6 stops, including on sack. He also recovered a fumbled snap by Schaeffer and set sail for probably would've been a touchdown had officials not whistled the play dead.

''Omar Gaither's just making play after play,'' Fulmer noted.

Sophomore linebacker Ryan Karl also recorded six tackles, including several bone-jarring hits. One shot on Yancey brought oohs and ahhs from observers, while a hit on Foster produced a three-yard loss. Linebacker Daniel Brooks lowered the boom on JaKouri Williams, producing a one-yard loss. Jonathan Hefney made a big hit on Josh Briscoe that caused a fumble and fellow safety Antwan Stewart landed a big lick to break up a pass. Cornerback Jonathan Wade picked off a slightly underthrown Clausen pass near the end of the scrimmage.

''It looks like the secondary's getting their hands on a few more balls,'' Fulmer said, ''and those things are good.''

Fulmer conceded that Tennessee's attack is limited by injuries to projected starting offensive linemen Rob Smith and Richie Gandy, neither of whom took part in the scrimmage.

''The defense set the tempo again,'' the coach said. ''But I don't really know how much we're challenging them from the offensive front.

''Offensively, it's all about mistakes. If you make mistakes, you're not going to move the football. We have no consistency right now, no continuity.''

Tennessee opened with a first-team offensive line of Arron Sears and Albert Toeaina at tackle, Cody Douglas and David Ligon at guard, with walk-on Michael Frogg at center.

Two fights broke out during the scrimmage. The first involved offensive lineman Steven Jones and an unidentified defender. The second featured 365-pound offensive tackle Albert Toeaina and 190-pound defensive back Corey Campbell. This fracas eventually involved roughly a dozen players and coaches, lasting more than a minute before Toeaina would be pulled from the melee.

Fulmer viewed the fights as both a good sign (in terms of intensity) and a bad sign (in terms of discipline).

''To put yourself in a situation where you're going to get kicked out of a football game is selfish; we'll have to correct that,'' he said. ''I like the competive part of it. Some of that's going to happen naturally sometimes but it's different when you take it too far.''


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