The 40-percent solution

Getting a specific number out of a college football coach is just slightly easier than getting water out of a rock.

Yet, Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer was willing to share a precise number when asked how much improvement he expects from last Saturday's first full-scale scrimmage to tonight's second full-scale scrimmage.

"If we just cut down on our mistakes," he said, "we'll be 40 percent better in this scrimmage."

Mistakes are to be expected in a first scrimmage, especially when a team is giving auditions to as many newcomers as the Vols are. The new faces battling for playing time include Lennon Creer and Daryl Vereen at tailback; Kenny O'Neal, Brent Vinson, Gerald Jones, Ahmad Paige and Denarius Moore at receiver; Ben Martin at defensive end; Chris Donald, Chris Walker and Savion Frazier at linebacker; Eric Berry, C. J. Fleming, Nevin McKenzie and DeAngelo Willingham at defensive back.

With more young guys than usual competing for spots, Fulmer knows to expect the unexpected this preseason.

"Football's a game of who makes the fewest mistakes," he said. "There's always going to be mistakes when you're playing a fast, physical kind of game. But we want it to be fewer mistakes – fewer assignment mistakes, fewer easy sacks."

There are two kinds of mistakes – the minor ones that produce minor consequences and the major ones that produce major consequences. Fulmer can deal with the former; he's not so philosophical when it comes to the latter.

The head man said Tennessee's problems are "nothing physical necessarily," suggesting that mental lapses are the real culprit. Thus, his primary goal in Scrimmage No. 2 is for his players to "make the defense or the offense earn whatever they get. Make them block you well or tackle you well or cover you well. Don't give ‘em anything easy.

"Hopefully we'll improve on that on both sides."


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