McCoy is a Vol to watch

If you didn't notice Rico McCoy in Tennessee's Saturday football scrimmage … well, you simply weren't paying attention.

The redshirt freshman linebacker showed up with amazing regularity, registering a scrimmage-best eight tackles. Two of his stops resulted in lost yardage, including one sack.

McCoy's hits weren't just numerous; they were memorable. He made a strong open-field hit that limited 250-pound fullback David Holbert to a one-yard gain. He made a big hit on JaKouri Williams that resulted in a two-yard loss. He made an even bigger hit in a goal-line situation that propelled Ricardo Kemp two yards sideways and, ironically, across the goal line. McCoy also landed a big lick that decked 6-8, 255-pound tight end Jeff Cottam after a short gain on a pass reception.

In short, McCoy showed sideline-to-sideline range on Saturday. Wherever the ball was, he was nearby. That's a credit to both his quickness and his instincts.

"He is an around-the-ball football player," head coach Phillip Fulmer said with a grin. "He's a freshman, so we don't want to get too excited just yet. But he likes to play football and he does things instinctively."

One thing Rico McCoy does instinctively is hit. He packs quite a wallop for a 6-1, 215-pounder. Best of all, he doesn't just deliver a blow. He's a form tackler who locks up and finishes the job.

"A lot of guys go to make a tackle and round it off," Fulmer noted. "He puts his foot in the ground and goes to the ball, strikes a great lick. He knows how in the open field to get ‘em by the legs. If you're in the hole he can front you up (meet you head-on) pretty good, too."

McCoy, a native of Washington D.C., who missed the 2005 season with a foot injury, clearly is making a move now that he's healthy. Still, he shrugged off Saturday's scrimmage performance as no big deal.

"It wasn't an excellent day; I can always improve," he said. "I missed a play or two here or there but I played my best. That's what I want to do every day – give it my all."

Although he has never played a down of college football, McCoy is determined to show enough this spring to win a spot in Tennessee's starting lineup for the 2006 opener against California.

"I feel as though that's the reason we have spring ball … for everybody to try to get their name out there and get the job done so that come the fall they can have a spot," he said. "I'm working my hardest now to have a starting spot in the fall."

Coming off foot surgery, McCoy didn't think he'd be available for spring practice. Now that he is, though, he's making the most of his opportunity.

"I didn't expect to be here for the spring," he conceded. "I recovered pretty well pretty quick. I'm just happy to be out here making some plays."

Fulmer's happy, too.

"Rico's had a really good spring," the head man said. "There's a guy we certainly could've used last year but he got hurt early in two-a-days. But in the long run the redshirt year probably did him good."

McCoy has always been an exceptional tackler. Once he develops a little more polish as a blitzer he could be the total package.

"He's become a better pass rusher," Fulmer said. "He's getting off the guards and the back and getting to the quarterback. I'm real encouraged about him."

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