Vols gettin' their kicks

James Wilhoit was a small guy but he left some big shoes to fill. He connected on 71.9 percent (59 of 82) of his field-goal attempts during an illustrious four-year stint as Tennessee's No. 1 place-kicker. He'll be a tough act to follow.

Ryan West was an obscure guy but he also was valuable. He handled the deep-snapping responsibilities the past 2½ seasons in flawless fashion. He'll be a tough act to follow, as well.

Junior Britton Colquitt and redshirt freshman Daniel Lincoln are waging quite a battle for the placement job this spring. Morgan Cox, a 6-4, 225-pound sophomore walk-on from Collierville, is preparing to assume the snapper duties.

Minus Wilhoit and West, Vol head coach Phillip Fulmer is understandably anxious about UT's special teams this spring. That's why he devoted a significant portion of Thursday's 65-play situational scrimmage to the kicking game. Fortunately, he liked what he saw.

"We scrimmaged our punt team," Fulmer said. "I was really concerned about where we were at center – losing our snapper from last year – but we held up pretty good against a full-speed rush. That was good to see."

With the Vols breaking in a new snapper and kicker this season, the coach described the return of 2006 placement holder Casey Woods as "a big, big plus."

In his ongoing efforts to fine-tune the kicking game, Fulmer said Tennessee also worked "a good amount" on field goals and extra points during Thursday's scrimmage.

"Britton's kicking the ball extremely well right now," the head man noted. "I think he hit one from 56 yards, which was good to see. Daniel kicked the ball consistently for the most part but not as consistently as he did in the last scrimmage.

"It was good work for those guys. I think we're pretty close to being ready with our protection and some phases of our kicking game."

Colquitt connected on 3 of 5 field-goal tries in Tennessee's first full-scale scrimmage of the spring, then 6 of 9 in the second. Lincoln was 5 of 6 in the first, then 8 of 10 in the second. Colquitt is a combined 9 of 14 (64.3 percent) with a long of 50 yards. Lincoln is a combined 13 of 16 (81.3 percent) with a long of 45 yards.

While Colquitt's kicking has been a tad erratic, his punting has been phenomenal. He punted once for 44 yards in scrimmage No. 1, then averaged a whopping 50.5 yards on four punts in scrimmage No. 2. Backup Chad Cunningham has struggled, however, averaging 31 yards on two punts in scrimmage No. 1 and 36.3 yards on four punts in scrimmage No. 2.

"We still have a big concern about our backup punter," Fulmer conceded. "We're not nearly as consistent as we need to be."

Fans can judge Tennessee's kicking game for themselves in Saturday's Orange & White game. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Neyland Stadium. There is no admission charge.


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