He can play ... but when?

Everyone knows he can play but no one knows if he can play THIS YEAR.

That's the bizarre situation facing Tennessee football player Brandon Warren. After dropping out of Florida State University in February of 2007 and spending a year at Pellissippi State Community College, he is enrolled at UT and practicing with the Vols. His eligibility for 2008 is still being determined, however.

In spite of a lengthy layoff, the skills that made him a five-star prospect during his days at nearby Alcoa High School enabled him to start last Saturday's scrimmage ahead of veteran tight ends Luke Stocker and Jeff Cottam. Warren made just one catch – a four-yarder on which he was stopped just inches shy of the goal line – but exhibited a level of athleticism that could make him an All-SEC player someday.

The question is: When? How long must he wait to learn of the SEC's ruling on his petition for immediate eligibility?

"I'm optimistic about it," he said recently. "But you know how these things are."

Yeah. Eligibility rulings from the NCAA and SEC offices are ponderously slow.

On a positive note, Warren isn't waiting by the phone; he's playing the game he loves. Saturday's scrimmage was his first action in a game-type situation in 19 months, and he relished every second of it.

"It felt pretty good," he said, grinning broadly. "I've been going through practice and stuff, but to get out here live – going against a good defense and stuff – was really good."

Even with Warren in the lineup, Tennessee's No. 1 offense had difficulty cracking the end zone on Saturday. The Vols moved the ball well through the air but struggled mightily on the ground. A fumble and an interception killed two promising drives.

"We did some pretty good things as an offense," Warren noted. "We didn't do a lot of what we do but we had a pretty good day. We've got the film to build on and now we've got to get better."

In addition to his work at tight end, Warren participated on the kickoff return and kickoff coverage teams during Saturday's scrimmage. Will that be a permanent assignment?

"I don't know," Warren replied. "Savion Frazier was hurt, so I was taking his spot on the returns. You never know. If they want me out there, then I'll do it."

Warren's eagerness to get on the field is understandable. He hasn't suited up for an actual game since December of 2006, when FSU played in the Emerald Bowl. Oddly enough, the opponent was UCLA, the same team Tennessee will be facing in its 2008 opener. So, pending a favorable eligibility ruling from the SEC office, Warren will be facing the Bruins in back-to-back games 20 months apart.

"That's kind of weird," he conceded. "But last time I was in a different uniform."


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