Cunningham gets his kicks

No one is going to beat out two-year starter Britton Colquitt for Tennessee's first-team punting job this season. Still, the Vols would love for someone to prove himself capable of providing insurance behind their strong-legged starter.

That's where freshman Chad Cunningham could find his niche. He didn't punt particularly well in Tennessee's first two spring scrimmages but he rose to the occasion in the recent Orange & White game, booming a 56-yarder, a 53-yarder and a 50-yarder.

Colquitt, who had a great spring, punted for a 41.5-yard average in the O&W game and booted field goals of 52 and 43 yards. Redshirt freshman kicker Daniel Lincoln hit a 27-yard field goal in the spring game. All in all, it was a very impressive performance by the three specialists.

"I was pleased with the kicking game," head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "That's the best Chad Cunningham punted this spring. Britton Colquitt obviously had a big day with the punts and field goals, and he is still the guy (projected to do both). Daniel Lincoln has done OK but he has to be more consistent."

While Tennessee's kicking game appears to be in good hands coming out of spring practice, the offense and defense still have some holes to fill. Fulmer is searching for a few playmakers at receiver, plus depth in the offensive line, the defensive front and the secondary. He's also hoping for leaders to emerge at all positions.

"I think we have a chance to have a good football team," Fulmer said. "How good depends on them – their attitude, work ethic, how well they prepare and how much our leadership continues to grow."

Given the overall youth and inexperience of the Vol squad, the head man says this offseason is especially crucial. Tennessee's returning players must continue to hone their bodies and their skills during the coming months, so they can hit the ground running when preseason drills begin in August.

"That's up to them to get themselves ready to play and contribute," Fulmer said. "We're asking them for a total commitment – that's on the field, in the classroom, socially and, I hope, from a spiritual standpoint, as well."


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