Fulmer shuffles the deck

Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer announced two position switches Saturday morning – one that should bolster the Vols' shakiest position and one that should add depth at the Vols' strongest position.

Vladimir Richard, a 6-4, 290-pounder, has moved from defensive tackle to offensive guard, providing another quality athlete at a position gutted by graduation. Meanwhile, 5-11, 190-pound Ricardo Kemp has moved from receiver to defensive back, where all four 2005 starters are returning. Both Richard and Kemp are redshirt freshmen.

Three starters are missing from Tennessee's 05 blocking wall, including both guards – Cody Douglas and Rob Smith. Thus, the switch of Richard to guard will provide serious competition for Ramon Foster and Anthony Parker. Centers David Ligon and Michael Frogg also can play guard.

"After one day, he's a million miles away from knowing what to do and how to do it," Fulmer said of Richard. "Athletically, though, he is much better on that side of the ball. We'll see how he develops."

Kemp's shift to the secondary is his third move in the past six months. After starting his career as a receiver, he moved to tailback early last spring, then back to receiver. Now he's getting a shot as a defensive back.

"He's been a very unselfish young man," Fulmer noted. "We moved him to tailback and he did a nice job. He's a competitive guy. We moved him back to receiver for a little bit and now we've moved him to defensive back because we're a little short there, in terms of being able to do all the Mustang Package things. I think just because of his attitude and work ethic he'll be a plus for our defensive football team."

Although the starting secondary is solid, Kemp could help in the nickel (five defensive back) and dime (six defensive back) packages Tennessee uses against pass-happy teams. Kemp also could be groomed as a future starter. First-team cornerback Jonathan Wade and first-team strong safety Antwan Stewart are seniors, and three more top DBs (Jonathan Hefney, Roshaun Fellows and Antonio Gaines) are juniors.

Austin Rogers, who saw mop-up duty as a freshman wide receiver last fall, also is getting a look as a defensive back this preseason.

"We'll take a look both ways," Fulmer said. "He's a really fine athlete, a really smart athlete. He'll work mostly at receiver but he's a guy who in the nickel and dime packages can provide some depth and possibly get himself in the mix."

In another newsworthy note, senior middle linebacker Marvin Mitchell has rejoined the team after three months in the head man's dog house. Mitchell was suspended last spring after his arrest on a disorderly conduct charge at a campus-area convenience store.

"Marvin Mitchell has done what he needs to do to be reinstated," Fulmer said.


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