'Backers shine in scrimmage

When Casey Clausen hit Jason Witten with a 33-yard pass on the first play of Saturday's full-scale scrimmage, you got the idea Tennessee's offense might be ready to erupt. Thanks to the stellar play of Vol linebackers, however, the day generally belonged to the defense.

Just five plays into the workout, middle linebacker Keyon Whiteside dropped Jabari Davis for a three-yard loss and strongside 'backer Eddie Moore sacked Clausen for a five-yard loss on consecutive plays. Moments later, Whiteside and Moore combined to throw tailback Cedric Houston for a four-yard loss.

When the No. 3 offense and defense squared, linebacker Parys Haralson again showed why he may be Tennessee's most impressive freshman, dropping Gerald Riggs, Jr., for no gain and then sacking James Banks for minus-nine two plays later.

Moore made a big hit on Houston on the first play of the next No. 1 vs. No. 1 series. Minutes later weakside linebacker Kevin Burnett made back-to-back big plays, drilling Riggs for minus-two on a fourth-and-one and sacking Clausen for minus-three.

Kevin Simon, Burnett's backup, recovered a Keldrick Williams fumble to stop a drive in No. 2 vs. No. 2 action, then combined with sophomore strongside 'backer Jason Mitchell to stop Williams for a one-yard gain on the very next play.

Moore subsequently weighed in with another sack of Clausen (this one taking six yards), then closed his spectacular performance by intercepting a C.J. Leak throw over the middle.

Tennessee played a good bit of 3-4 defense during the workout, deploying four linebackers at once. Head coach Phillip Fulmer liked what he saw of it.

''We've got enough depth at linebacker that we can put some pressure on, we can drop, we can do a lot of things,'' he said.

Fulmer noted that Burnett is ''really special,'' but added that his cohorts also are playing well.

''All of those linebackers are making plays,'' he said. ''Our defensive front's doing a really good job, and the secondary's getting their hands on the ball. It's real pleasing, what we're getting done. We just need to take the next step.''

Statistically, Moore paced the defense with five stops, a tackle for loss, an interception and two sacks. Burnett chipped in six tackles, two assists, one tackle for loss and one sack. Safety Mark Jones had a busy day, recording seven tackles, four assists, a tackle for loss and a sack. Fellow safety Gibril Wilson chipped in seven tackles. Whiteside added three stops but two were for minus yardage. End Wesley Holmes made his four stops count, registering two sacks and one tackle for loss. Safety Julian Battle and cornerback Robert Boulware recorded interceptions.

Besides the Clausen-to-Witten hookup, the big offensive plays were:

* a dazzling lay-out catch by C.J. Fayton of a 36-yard dart from Leak
* a 21-yard hookup between freshman James Banks and walk-on Ryan Boswell
* an 18-yard dash by Houston
* a 36-yard completion from Banks to freshman tight end Aaron Kirkland, who somehow broke wide open against the No. 3 defense
* an 11-yard touchdown run on a sweep by Keldrick Williams, also against the No. 3 defense
* a 22-yard ramble by Jabari ''J-Train'' Davis, who literally carried safety Gibril Wilson the last seven yards
* a 22-yard completion from Clausen to Montrell Jones
* a 19-yard run by Riggs and a 13-yarder by Derrick Tinsley on consecutive plays against the No. 2 defense
* a 14-yard toss from Clausen to Witten

Clausen finished 11 of 16 for 123 yards. Banks was 3 of 5 for 67 yards, Leak 2 of 8 for 49 yards.

Riggs led the rushers with 51 yards on 13 carries. Williams added 36 on eight attempts and Houston 34 on five tries. Tinsley had 20 yards on five rushes and Davis 20 yards on three carries.

Witten paced all receivers with 58 yards on five grabs. Jones chipped in 32 yards on two catches. Fayton and Kirkland had a 36-yard grab each. Tony Brown had two catches for nine yards and Leonard Scott one catch for 15 yards. Justin Reed caught one ball for 14 yards and Jomo Fagan one for 13.

''I'm excited about the possibilities for this offensive team,'' Fulmer said. ''We've just got to put it all together and be more consistent.''

The running back picture remains muddled, as all of the backs had their moments. Houston looked the sharpest but Fulmer surmised that could be because he missed some work last week and had the freshest legs.

''Jabari made some nice runs,'' the head man added. ''And Tinsley, boy, he is so quick. I'm really pleased with Keldrick Williams and Riggs. They're all quality backs.''

Tinsley also saw considerable action at receiver but dropped a couple of balls that appeared catchable.

''He's got to catch it a little better,'' Fulmer said, ''but we'll just have to keep looking at that. We need him on the field; we don't need him standing over there next to me. We can't get all of those (tailbacks) on the field at the same time, so we need him to do that (play some receiver) if we can. We need another playmaker on offense.''

The head man also praised backup fullback Sudan Ellington, who didn't carry the ball but contributed some crisp blocking.

''That's another key to our offense, getting another fullback ready to go with Troy Fleming,'' Fulmer said.

The Vol boss also noted some nice work by eserve offensive lineman Victor McClure, who saw some action at tight end.

Fulmer noted that Montrell Jones made a couple of plays that could help his chances of becoming Tennessee's No. 2 receiver behind Kelley Washington, who was held out of the workout with a slight knee bruise.

Overall, the head man said his team ''definitely made progress in some areas where we needed to,'' but said he's still concerned about the shaky situation at quarterback behind Clausen. Leak and Banks are improving but still have much to learn.

''We'd have to be awful simple right now if either one of those guys were playing or we'd be drastic and do something else ... maybe the single wing.''

PUNTER DRILLS: Incumbent Dustin Colquitt was the most consistent Vol in punting drills, punting nine times for a 43.1-yard average with generally good hang time. Seth Reagan punted five times for 42.2 yards but his hang time was only so-so and he benefited from one big bounce. Freshman James Wilhoit averaged 40.0 yards on five punts but boomed the day's best kick -- a 48-yarder -- after fielding a snap that bounced to him.

INJURY REPORT: Two key Vols ‚ first-team guard Chavis Smith (knee, ankle) and first-team defensive tackle Rashad Moore (knee) ‚ were injured during the scrimmage, and Fulmer hinted that each could be out for a significant amout of time. Cornerback Willie Miles sustained a minor hamstring injury and was withheld from further action as a precaution. ''He's had an awfully good camp,'' Fulmer said. No. 1 fullback Troy Fleming suffered a minor neck injury. Freshman DT Heath Benedict suffered a shin injury and freshman WR Jonathan Wade hurt his shoulder. Held out of the scrimmage were DT LaRon Harris (groin) and DB Steven Marsh (ankle). Freshman DL Justin Harrell remains sidelined by a sprained ankle.


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