Battle lines are drawn

Fans who show up for today's 2:30 Orange & White game expecting to see razzle-dazzle will be disappointed. With scouts from opposing teams in the stands, Tennessee's offense and defense will be pure vanilla.

Fans who show up expecting to see superior football will be disappointed, as well. Spring scrimmages tend to be sloppy, even when the units are kept largely intact. That will be the case today, with the first-team offense facing the second-team defense and the second-team offense challenging the first-team defense. Remember: The guys have practiced together just 11 times and scrimmaged just three times. There's still tons of progress to be made.

So what should fans expect today? They should expect to see some intriguing battles unfold in the fight for first- and second-team positions. Here are some that bear watching:

QUARTERBACK: Junior Jonathan Crompton is close to having a lock on the first-team job but sophomore Nick Stephens and redshirt freshman B. J. Coleman are waging quite a war for the No. 2 spot. Stephens has the better arm but Coleman reportedly has the better grasp of the offense.

TAILBACK: Arian Foster is clearly No. 1, but offensive coordinator Dave Clawson says he'd like to have a 1-A at the position. A strong showing today by sophomore Lennon Creer could significantly improve his chances of earning that niche ahead of injury-plagued junior Montario Hardesty. Keep an eye on mid-term freshman Tauren Poole, too. He's Tennessee's most explosive back.

LEFT OFFENSIVE TACKLE: The critical role of protecting the quarterback's blind side is up for grabs. Junior Chris Scott started the last six games of 2007 at the position but has struggled this spring, enabling sophomore Ramone Johnson to pull into a tie for the first-team job. Their performances today will be reviewed dozens of times between now and the start of preseason drills in August.

WIDE RECEIVER: Lucas Taylor, Austin Rogers and Josh Briscoe are proven performers who likely will be on the field when Tennessee lines up for its first offensive play Sept. 1 at UCLA. There's spirited competition for the next three spots in the playing rotation, however. The leading contenders are junior Quintin Hancock, sophomores Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore, along with redshirt freshman Ahmad Paige.

LEFT DEFENSIVE TACKLE: Demonte Bolden started 12 games last fall but finished spring practice bracketed No. 1 with fellow senior Walter Fisher. Are the coaches playing with Bolden's head or is Fisher a legitimate threat to take away the starting spot? Either way, this position should make for some drama. With depth an issue at both tackle spots, a good performance today could put Chase Nelson, Victor Thomas or Donald Langley in good position to be the No. 4 man in the rotation.

MIDDLE LINEBACKER: Ellix Wilson has the job locked up but the question is: Can he handle the job? No one expects him to be the second coming of Jerod Mayo but he needs to be a rock in the middle of the defense.

RIGHT CORNERBACK: Brent Vinson started the last 10 games of 2007 but he's sidelined by injury. In his absence, fellow sophomore Dennis Rogan has made a serious bid for the starting job. Rogan could strengthen his resume' with a strong outing today.

PUNTER: With Britton Colquitt suspended for the first five games, Chad Cunningham has the job by default. Will he be good or merely adequate? Today's performance may provide a clue.


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