Frosh RBs make mark

Two freshman running backs made statements Tuesday as Tennessee marked its first day in full pads by holding a 40-play situational scrimmage.

The scrimmage was closed to media but head coach Phillip Fulmer said rookie rushers Montario Hardesty and LaMarcus Coker were among the featured performers.

After noting that senior tailback Gerald Riggs' first carry of the workout was "really, really a solid run," Fulmer added: "And those two young backs really did a heck of a job. It was good to see them full-speed because you can't really tell what you've got until you're out there full-speed. I think both of those guys are going to help us and complement us pretty well."

Asked specifically about Hardesty, Fulmer replied: "He made a couple of nice runs today. Both he and LaMarcus are coming along nicely. Both made some nice runs today."

Hardesty wears jersey No. 34, the number made famous by Herschel Walker and several subsequent superstar backs. Fulmer alluded to this at one point, noting: "That's a pretty famous running back number. I hope he (Hardesty) can fulfill it. He looks like he's off to a good start."

Both Coker and Hardesty took some hard hits Tuesday, Fulmer said, but neither seemed adversely affected.

"When those pads start really popping, a young, immature guy doesn't handle it as well," the coach noted. "But these young guys … they haven't backed up from anything."

Hardesty and Coker are unlikely to challenge Riggs for the first-team job but they could push redshirt freshmen Arian Foster and Ja'Kouri Williams for the second-team spot. Foster and Williams have the advantage of a year in the UT system, however, even though neither played last fall.

Fulmer conceded that the two redshirts "have a lot of advantages, as far as the protections and those kinds of thing. They know the system and all that stuff. Ja'Kouri and Arian have done fine. It's just that those two guys (Coker and Hardesty) had two or three really nice runs today."

Staying in an offensive theme, Fulmer said quarterbacks Erik Ainge and Rick Clausen continue to run "neck and neck" in the battle for first-team recognition. Although the head man said UT's offense "moved the ball pretty well" during the 40-play scrimmage, he quickly added that "the defense was pretty vanilla."

Despite the presence of such talented wideouts as Robert Meachem, Chris Hannon, Jayson Swain, Bret Smith and C.J. Fayton, Fulmer says the Vols' lack of a home run threat at receiver is a concern.

"We've got to find a deep-ball guy right now," the head man said. "I don't know that anybody's distinguished themselves as that. When the receivers are open, we've overthrown it or underthrown it. We haven't established that (deep threat), so that's something we'll focus on here as we go along."


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