Fulmer on WRs

The slipshod play of Tennessee's wide receivers contributed greatly to the fact the Vols scored just 18 points per game last fall en route to a disappointing 5-6 record. That's why head coach Phillip Fulmer is watching them closely for signs of improvement this spring.

The coach isn't exactly doing handstands but he believes the wideouts are getting better.

"There's some progress there," he said this week. "We're playing faster, a lot more aggressive."

Tennessee's receivers were criticized all last fall for failing to get separation from defensive backs and for dropping too many passes. An overlooked but equally vital shortcoming was their downfield blocking. It was virtually non-existent. For a "pound the rock" coach like Fulmer, that's the unpardonable sin.

"We're better blockers right now than we were at any point last year," the head man said. "But there's still a lot of room for improvement."

Tennessee gave six receivers significant playing time last fall – Chris Hannon, C.J. Fayton, Jayson Swain, Robert Meachem, Bret Smith and Josh Briscoe. New offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe says only the wideouts who earn his trust will play in 2006. To date, that's a pretty small number.

"Who else is going to get on the field?" Fulmer asked rhetorically. "There's three or four guys we think can play at this level and the rest of them are prospects. Can they get out there and play?"

One of them hasn't been able to "get out there and play" very much lately. That would be Swain, who has 77 career catches but is slowed by knee problems this spring. How much will he participate in the remaining workouts?

"That's up to the doctors," Fulmer said. "I'd like to have him out here but every time he comes out here it swells back up. He needs rest, they say, and time. We'll see."


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