Arian's alter ego

He looked like Arian Foster. He wore Arian Foster's number (27). He ran like Arian Foster and even talked like him. But the offensive bright spot of Saturday's Orange & White game insisted he was NOT Arian Foster.

"I'm Spencer Douglas," he told a cluster of reporters moments after rushing eight times for 63 yards in the White team's 16-13 victory. "It's a new personality. I'm Spencer Douglas. There ain't no Arian here. I changed my name about two weeks ago. I just changed it."

Has Tennessee's junior tailback developed a split-personality? No. Foster is just having some fun with the media by adopting an alter ego ... a la NFL star Clinton Portis. Asked if he's familiar with Portis, Foster nodded and replied: "Sure. Has he got an alter ego, too?"

If you hadn't already guessed, Arian Foster/Spencer Douglas is the Vols' unofficial team clown. No one in the program enjoys offbeat antics more than he does. For instance, when one reporter tried to impose a serious tone by asking, "Where do you think the offense is right now?" Foster deadpanned: "They're probably in the locker room because we just had a spring game."

Foster's upbeat mood was understandable following his strong showing in the spring game. Now packing 225 pounds on his 6-1 frame, he ran with power and speed. He made sharp cuts and quick bursts. In short, he was the best back on the field.

"I feel like I took some strides in the right direction," he said, finally turning serious. "Everybody has some things to work on but I feel like I'm making progress toward where I want to be."

After replacing the injured Gerald Riggs, Foster started the last five games of 2005 and looked like a budding superstar. He was a preseason second-team All-SEC pick for 2006 but injured his ankle in Game 2 vs. Air Force and struggled the rest of the regular season. He finally regained his form in the Outback Bowl vs. Penn State only to lose a costly fumble near the Nittany Lion goal line in the final minutes.

Apparently motivated by that disappointment, Foster has been unusually focused and determined this spring. It was his best spring to date ... mostly because it was his healthiest spring to date.

"The first spring I got hurt with an ankle injury and the second spring I didn't go through it because of shoulder surgery," he noted. "This is my first full spring."

Foster conceded that he feels extra motivated these days. Having an ankle injury spoil his 2006 regular season and the fumble ruin his bowl performance was a 1-2 punch that has doubled his determination.

"It was a combination of both," he said. "I missed four games because of the ankle injury, and I really didn't have the season that I wanted. Then in the bowl game I came back strong besides the last fumble. I just had a couple of things to work on."

Although he has bulked up to 225 pounds, Foster appears a step faster than he was as a true freshman in 2004, as a redshirt freshman in 2005 and as a sophomore last fall.

"It's the result of hard work," he said. "I was faster in high school than I was here last year and the year before. Now I've gotten back to the training regimen I used in high school, and it's showing."

When asked what that regimen is, however, Arian Foster quickly gave way to Spencer Douglas, his wise-cracking alter ego:

"I can't let you know my secrets, man."

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