Disappearing act

One Tennessee football player is making like noted illusionist David Copperfield this fall. After earning Freshman All-America honors in 2004, this Vol has disappeared in recent weeks.

Roshaun Fellows started eight games as a redshirt freshman cornerback last fall and started Games 1, 2 and 3 this fall. Then, hocus-pocus, he all but vanished. He lost the first-team left cornerback job to Jonathan Wade four weeks ago. Then, when right cornerback Jason Allen suffered a season-ending hip injury two weeks ago, Fellows lost the battle to succeed Allen to Inquoris Johnson.

Arguably Tennessee's finest cornerback in 2004, Fellows now finds himself the No. 3 corner in 2005. Still, secondary coach Larry Slade says this circumstance is more a credit to Wade and Johnson than a discredit to Fellows.

"I'm not certain Roshaun has regressed," Slade said recently. "I think some other guys have gotten a lot better. Inky and some of those guys had (more) athletic ability and speed. They started getting some experience and kept getting better until they caught up with him."

Basically, Fellows played well enough in 2004 to win the job but didn't play well enough in 2005 to keep it. Using a sandlot baseball analogy, Slade put it this way:

"The expression we use is: ‘If you leave your glove on the mound, somebody will take it.' Roshaun's trying to take it back. He's competing hard. He wants to be out there."

Fellows remains excellent in pass coverage. He just hasn't performed as well in run support as Vol coaches would like.

"We don't have just cover corners," Slade said. "You've got to be able to tackle and do all of that."

Wade recorded interceptions in each of his first two starts this year, returning one for a touchdown. He appears to have a lock on the left corner job. Meanwhile, Johnson has played quite well since replacing Allen. As a result, Fellows is having to turn it up a notch in order to claw his way back into the starting lineup.

"Inky stepped up and has played well," Slade said. "Roshaun is competing like crazy in practice. Either of those guys can get the job done."

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