No huddle ... no freshmen?

Some Tennessee football fans are worried that no huddle means no freshmen. Head coach Phillip Fulmer says that isn't the case at all.

Although the Vols are committed to using some no-huddle offense this fall, the head man says that won't hurt the chances of first-year players seeing action. If anything, it might help their chances.

"The no-huddle should not hurt getting young players on the field because they actually will have more time at the line of scrimmage, more opportunity to see the front and the coverages," Fulmer said.

Tennessee desperately needs some playmakers at wide receiver now that Robert Meachem, Jayson Swain and Bret Smith have moved on. Several newcomers - juco transfer Kenny O'Neal and prep school grad Brent Vinson, for instance - have the speed to be big-play threats if they can get acquainted with UT's offensive system in time for the Sept. 1 opener against California.

To help the rookies get up to speed Fulmer said he and his staff will "simplify enough to get a couple of those guys in the mix really early."

The head man noted that he and offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe "cleaned up and tried to simplify our passing game" in 2006, adding that they will "continue that process and get the people that can make some big plays for us on the field."

So how much help does Fulmer expect from the 2007 freshman class? Plenty.

"From an athletic standpoint, from a speed standpoint, there are a number of guys that are more ready to play than typically show up," he said. "I'm really encouraged at this point with where we are. We haven't had one scrimmage yet, but just how they carry themselves and how they weren't intimidated by the environment was real encouraging."

Typically, some freshmen and junior college transfers are overwhelmed by the amount of information they must assimilate in order to play at the major-college level. Fulmer hopes this year's crop of rookies can manage the learning curve.

"It can be intimidating to a young guy when he hears all the different huddle calls and formations and defenses and coverages and checks and things," the head man said. "There will be a process they go through. There will be a wall that they hit at some point. It'll be our job to simplify, get them over that hump."

The Vols hold their first full-scale scrimmage of the preseason on Saturday. By the time he grades the film on Sunday Fulmer will have a much better idea of what to expect from the newcomers under game-type conditions.

As he put it: "You never know exactly how they're going to respond until you put them in those situations."


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