Freshman superstar Eric Berry, of course, has started every game in the secondary. Several of his fellow rookies found their way into the playing mix Saturday night in Game 4.
The first-year contributors included freshman tailback Lennon Creer, freshman receiver Denarius Moore, junior college transfer Kenny O'Neal, freshman defensive end Ben Martin, juco linebacker Nevin McKenzie, juco cornerback DeAngelo Willingham and freshman cornerback Brent Vinson.
Creer had 9 carries for 28 yards in the 48-27 defeat of Arkansas State. Moore contributed one catch for 13 yards. O'Neal chipped in one reception for 10 yards and one end-around carry for 2 yards. Martin registered 2 tackles. McKenzie ranked among the defensive leaders with 5 tackles and 2 hurries. Vinson weighed in with 4 tackles and an interception, while Willingham contributed a tackle and a pass breakup.
"We have continued to identify young guys who can help us," Fulmer said on his Sunday teleconference, "because we've got to get them ready to play for us."
Three more freshmen - defensive end Chris Walker, linebacker Savion Frazier and safety Dennis Rogan - saw special-teams action Saturday night. All three are moving toward earning scrimmage snaps. Rogan also could figure in the return game, especially if punt-return specialist Jonathan Hefney continues to play as poorly as he did against Arkansas State (four returns for minus-17 yards).
After going 8 for 8 on field-goal tries, redshirt freshman Daniel Lincoln has his career off to the best start of any kicker in UT history. The previous best of 6 for 6 was posted by Ricky Townsend in 1972 and matched by Carlos Reveiz in 1985.
Lincoln would be 9 for 9 except that UT accepted a running-into-the-kicker penalty Saturday night that nullified a 37-yard first-quarter field goal. The Vols scored a touchdown on the very next play.
Lincoln's 8-for-8 mark makes him the NCAA leader at this point. Several kickers are 7 for 7. Lincoln's average of 2.0 field goals per game is tied for eighth nationally.
Tailback LaMarcus Coker ranks third in the SEC and 12th nationally with a kickoff-return average of 30.4 yards. He ranks fourth among SEC players in all-purpose yards at 154 per game.
Quarterback Erik Ainge leads the SEC in passing yards at 282.5 per game.
THE WEEK AHEAD
After an off day today, Tennessee will practice Tuesday at 4 p.m. and Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.. The Vols will work out at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday to accommodate a 7 p.m. home game between the Vol junior varsity and Hargrave Military Academy. Reportedly, this will be UT's first JV game in 15 years.