Fulmer proud of award winners

Watching players make significant improvement during spring practice is enough to make a coach smile. Watching players make significant improvement at positions in desperate need of help is enough to make a coach burst into song.

Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer is ready to burst into song this spring.

The Vols' most improved offensive player, Ramon Foster, plays in the line, where UT is looking to replace two 2006 first-teamers – All-American Arron Sears and two-year starter David Ligon.

Meanwhile, the Vols' most improved defensive player, Marsallous Johnson, plays in the secondary, where UT is looking to replace three 2006 first-teamers – Jonathan Wade, Antwan Stewart and Demetrice Morley.

That explains the big smile on Fulmer's face as he discussed the players recently tabbed "Most Improved" for the spring of 2007. Interestingly enough, both are in-state guys who were considered sleepers coming out of high school.

Foster, a 6-6, 325-pound rising junior from Henning, has just about put a lock on the guard spot Ligon manned last fall.

"I'm really proud of Ramon," Fulmer said. "He's not had a good spring; he's had a GREAT spring. He's going to continue to get stronger in the offseason and lose a little bit more weight. He'll be about 315 when he comes back (in August) – down from 325, where he is right now.

"He's been a man among boys this spring, and I'm really proud of him."

The head man is just as pleased with Johnson, a 5-9, 180-pound rising sophomore from Smyrna. Johnson scarcely left the sidelines last fall but he held off senior Roshaun Fellows to finish the spring listed No. 1 at right cornerback. Now he must hold off prep superstar Eric Berry and junior college transfer DeAngelo Willingham in August in order to keep his starting job.

"Marsalous is very competitive in trying to find a spot, trying to make a place," Fulmer said. "He knows there's a couple of defensive backs coming in – one junior college corner – so it's going to turn into a really competitive situation once we get to the fall.

"I'm really proud of Marsalous and what he has done and how he has competed. And you can say the same for (No. 1 left cornerback) Antonio Gaines. We could've given that award to either one of those guys."

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