"The pressure was very good," Fulmer said. "And the good thing about it was that a lot of it was without blitzing. It was just four people."
Thanks to an improved pass rush, the secondary held up much better than in last Saturday's scrimmage. Although the defensive backs gave up three big pass plays – a 56-yarder, a 41-yarder and a 38-yarder – the big gains this time could be attributed more to superior execution by the offense rather than busted assignments by the defense. The 56-yarder came on a 20-yard pass that Robert Meachem caught in stride and carried another 36 yards before being bumped out of bounds. The 41-yarder was a perfectly thrown TD strike from Rick Clausen to freshman Lucas Taylor that was well covered by Inky Johnson. The 38-yarder was a super throw from Erik Ainge to freshman Josh Briscoe.
Taylor, who had four catches for 95 yards a week earlier, continues to impress the head coach.
"Lucas made some plays," Fulmer said. "He had a drop out there, as well, but he's a guy that's going to make some plays. He's got some speed. Bret Smith has had the best camp of anybody we've had but Lucas is right in there. He's definitely in the mix."
Fulmer declined to comment on the quarterback race until after he's reviewed the game film, noting only that: "Rick did some good things. Erik did some good things."
Clausen finished 10 of 15 for 180 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Ainge was 10 of 20 for 91 yards with one TD and one interception. Jim Bob Cooter was 3 of 4 for 55 yards and a touchdown. Bo Hardegree was 0 of 2 but had one pass dropped. Dylan Dickey was 1 of 2 for 5 yards.
Freshman LaMarcus Coker led all rushers with 34 yards on 12 carries. He also turned a short pass reception into a 17-yard gain. Arian Foster added 23 yards on nine attempts. Gerald Riggs had 19 yards on two carries, fullback Cory Anderson 17 yards on two carries and David Yancey nine yards on six carries.
Meachem led all receives with 62 yards on two catches. Freshman Slick Shelley added 54 yards on three grabs, followed by Bret Smith (53 yards on four catches) and Briscoe (45 yards on two receptions).
Defensively, linebackers Ryan Karl and Jerod Mayo led with four stops each. Karl forced a fumble, while Mayo recorded a sack. Linebacker Daniel Brooks made his three tackles count, registering a minus-yardage stop and forcing a fumble. Freshman defensive tackle Demonte Bolden registered three stops, a sack and a fumble recovery. Jason Hall recorded two sacks, while fellow defensive end Xavier Mitchell checked in with three stops, a sack and a pass deflection.
Guard Rob Smith worked with the first team at center in the absence of Richie Gandy and David Ligon, who were running 1-2 at center before suffering injuries in the past week. Fulmer thought Smith looked just fine at his new outpost.
"I thought Rob did a real good job," Fulmer said. "Rob has a lot of pride in what he does, and he's worked really hard at it. I'm pleased with where he is at this particular time. He could be a really fine center."
Fulmer also expressed pleasure with another center prospect.
"I'm really happy with Anthony Parker," the head man said. "He got all the snaps with the second team and did a good job. There were a couple of times he was a little quick on things and there was one snap that came out funny but I believe we can get those things corrected in the next two weeks."
Freshman tailback Montario Hardesty aggravated a deep thigh bruise on his only carry of the scrimmage and did not return to action. Fulmer said the injury is minor, however.
"It should be just a few days (that he'll miss)," the head man said. "But it's unfortunate because a lot of what we did today was set up to watch those running backs run."
Fulmer said he limited the defense a bit in order to create more running opportunities for the tailbacks bidding for the No. 2 job behind Riggs.
Hardesty, before suffering the thigh bruise, "showed some real flashes of toughness, quick feet and running ability early in camp," Fulmer said. "He's definitely in the mix to play."
Offensive tackles Albert Toeaina and Eric Young incurred two false-start penalties each. Being a former offensive line coach, Fulmer was not pleased by this. Still, he wasn't overly concerned.
"There were some things – the tackle jumping a little bit quick – that we can correct," he said. "Most things out there we can correct."
Fulmer described the Vols as "a tired, beat-up football team right now," then optimistically added: "But we'll go from there."