Volatile Vols

Tennessee's receivers already wear special gloves to help them catch the football. Based on the first two spring scrimmages, equipment manager Roger Frazier might consider outfitting all of the Vols with gloves ... boxing gloves.

Guard Vladimir Richard threw a couple of punches at a defensive lineman last weekend in Scrimmage No. 1, then got chewed out by head coach Phillip Fulmer.

Two more skirmishes took place Saturday in Scrimmage No. 2 – this time with no repercussions. Tailback Lennon Creer and linebacker Ellix Wilson threw several punches each at one another before they could be restrained. Later, 6-4, 330-pound offensive lineman Jarrod Shaw chased down a defensive lineman and decked him with a mighty shove several seconds after the whistle had blown. The defender, giving away probably 70 pounds, showed restraint and good sense by choosing not to retaliate.

Because of the helmets and padding, football fights usually consist of a push, a retaliatory shove and some heated cussing. Tennessee's scrimmage scuffles have been a little more animated that this year. In fact, some of the hardest hits of the spring have been the kind that get you ejected.

Is that a concern?

"I think sometimes it's good," defensive coordinator John Chavis said following Saturday's scrimmage. "You compete; that's part of what it's all about.

"You obviously don't want to have a bunch of fights take away from what you're doing but, hey, guys get emotional and it doesn't take long to get 'em stopped. They realize they've got to get lined back up and play."

Basically, the coaches would rather have the players be a little too aggressive than a little too passive.

"That's the intensity you've got to have," Chavis said. "You've got to play at that level and practice at that level."

A recurring criticism of Tennessee football teams in recent years was that the Vols tend to be "soft" – relying on finesse more so than toughness and aggressiveness. The '08 team may be on the verge of changing that image. Chavis certainly liked the aggressiveness he saw from his troops in Saturday's scrimmage.

"We flew around, made some plays," he said. "We made some mistakes that we'll have to correct but I like the attitude. I like the way they're playing right now."


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