Fulmer to use fewer players

Never before has Tennessee's football team relied so much on newcomers to make an immediate impact.

The Vols need help at receiver and in the secondary. It wouldn't be surprising to see a first-year player start at each of those areas. They could also use help at defensive line and linebacker.

With such reliance on young, unproven talent, Phillip Fulmer was asked if that might change his approach to practice this August.

The answer: Yes.

``We've talked that through as a staff,'' Fulmer said. ``We're going to narrow pretty quickly who gets reps. We've got such a front-loaded schedule with Cal and Southern Miss and Florida that we can't get 80 guys ready to play. Whatever the number is – 40, 45, 50, 55 – we'll get those guys ready who we think can impact our team the best and we'll do whatever we've got to do to get the best players on the field.''

That's particularly true at receiver. Junior college transfer Kenny O'Neal, Brent Vinson, Gerald Jones and Ahmad Paige are the most highly touted of the incoming crop.

``I hope some of those youngsters can be a (Robert) Meachem,'' Fulmer said. ``I don't know that we've got a Meachem on campus, but I do know Quintin Hancock and Lucas Taylor and Austin Rogers and Josh Briscoe will be in the right place, will catch the ball, will read coverages and adjust routes to be open. And Erik Ainge will throw it and they'll catch it. We can win that way.

``Now, it's a whole lot better for us if Kenny O'Neal impacts our team or one of the freshman takes a fade route or short crossing route or hitch and goes 60 or 80 yards. We've got to prepare for the what-ifs.

``We will simplify enough that we will get the best players on the field.''

That might also apply to the secondary. DeAngelo Willingham and Nevin McKenzie, two junior college standouts, could see action early. The same goes for prized freshman signee Eric Berry, who could win a starting cornerback job.

Fulmer was pleased to hear that some summer drills among players became 11-on-11, not just 7-on-7.

``I think that prepares you more for the season,'' said Fulmer, who returns fewer starters (12) than all but Arkansas (10) and Florida (eight). ``We play a lot of people and not starting doesn't mean you're inexperienced or hadn't played. I think our young men have done a tremendous job incorporating the young guys into the mix and showing them what practice is about, the tempo, the periods, the horns – just going about the business to be a better player so it won't be a shock when they get to fall camp.''


Quarterback Erik Ainge has beefed up from 200 pounds when he reported in July of 2004 as a true freshman to 225.

He said he'd like to get to 230 or 235 by the end of the season.

``I've always been a thin guy, and I'll always be a thin guy,'' Ainge said. ``I could make the throws and do the stuff like other quarterbacks who are getting drafted, but I wanted to look like them. I wanted to look the part.''

Thus, Ainge has hit the weights harder than ever.

Did he ignore them his first few seasons?

``I always did everything I was supposed to do, but other guys on the team could do three sets of bench press and look like a statue and I've got to do extra work,'' Ainge said. ``I've got to go in early and stay late if I want to change my body.

``Since I had done so much from a mental standpoint the year before, I decided this would be the year I needed to step my game up physically.''


Mayo grew up in Hampton, Va., about 10 minutes from Michael Vick's house. He's always admired Vick.

He's not sure what Vick did, but it pains him to see what Vick is going through. And he doesn't like the way Vick has been treated.

``I definitely am,'' Mayo said when asked if he was bothered by the media's coverage of Vick. ``In this day and time, if you're accused of something, you're automatically guilty without due process. It's really unfair to him, but at the same time, if he did do it, I don't think it's right. He wasn't proven guilty. I'm going to wait to judge after his court trial.''

Mayo said he's always enjoyed watching Vick play.

``I definitely do,'' he said. ``He's done an excellent job since he played for Virginia Tech. It's hard not to look up to him.''


Ainge, nephew of former NBA player Danny Ainge, was a star basketball player in high school.

But the UT media guy said a vote of players ranked Hefney as the best hoopster, ahead of Ainge.

``I kind of retired myself from the game of basketball since I had my knee and ankle (injuries),'' Ainge said. ``But there's no way – and you can quote me on this – there's no way Jonathan Hefney could stop me on the basketball court. I might not be able to guard him, but he couldn't stop me, either.''

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