Big scrimmage set today

Tennessee head coach Phil Fulmer's philosophy of offensive line play couldn't be simpler: Find a way to put the five best blockers on the field at once.

Josh McNeil may be one of the Vols' five best, which is why the redshirt freshman from Collins, Miss., will get a long look at center in today's second full-scale scrimmage of the spring.

McNeil, rated America's No. 1 center prospect as a high school senior in 2004, recently joined spring practice after recovering from shoulder surgery. The 6-4, 290-pounder has so much potential that Fulmer is toying with the idea of starting him at center and switching David Ligon, who started the last four games of 2005, to guard.

Obviously, today's scrimmage is a huge one for McNeil and for Ligon. It's also going to be big for several other Vols – Ell Ash, for instance. Dismissed from the team last November after a profanity-laced practice-field tirade witnessed by UT athletics director Mike Hamilton, Ash was reinstated to the team earlier this week. Originally viewed as an offensive tackle prospect, he's working at defensive tackle this spring because of a lack of depth at that position.

Another player who hopes to open some eyes today is former UT basketball player Stanley Asumnu. The 6-5, 215-pounder has the size, speed and athleticism to contribute as a wide receiver but hasn't played football since the eighth grade, so he has a lot to prove today if wants to be taken seriously.

Tennessee's defensive backs have something to prove today, as well. They surrendered 37 completions, 371 passing yards and five passing touchdowns in the first full-scale scrimmage of the spring. Jason Allen may be missed more than expected, even though he was lost to a hip injury midway through the 2005 season.

"The thing we missed about Jason the most was leadership," secondary coach Larry Slade noted recently. "Jason getting hurt opened the door up for some other guys."

Some of those "other guys" need to step through that door today.

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