Most coaches use the board drill sparingly during spring practice. Not Phillip Fulmer. Tennessee's head man made it a staple of the Vols' workouts, figuring the bone-jarring drill would force his offensive and defensive linemen to become tougher and more physical.
"I definitely agree with that," guard Ramon Foster said recently. "To have board drills every practice to show that we're committed to the run game ought to help us out – being a physical offensive and defensive line."
As a former offensive lineman and offensive line coach, Fulmer was understandably disappointed that Tennessee rushed for just 108 yards per game and 3.7 yards per carry last fall. Vol blockers expected the head man would put them through a real gauntlet this spring, and they were right.
"To be 10th in the SEC in rushing last year, it was definitely expected," Foster said.
Running backs Arian Foster, LaMarcus Coker and Montario Hardesty took some of the heat for the ineffectiveness of Tennessee's ground game last fall. Ramon Foster says the backs were relatively blameless.
"We've got some great running backs," he said, "and it's time to show them what we (offensive linemen) can do."
All spring Fulmer and offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe emphasized the need for Tennessee to be "more physical" on offense. Asked if he knew what they meant by that, Foster nodded.
"When it's third and one, and the offensive line has got to go ahead and get the first down, that's what it means," he said. "It's just taking the initiative to get the job done."