Missed tackles a concern

Tennessee returned to practice Monday morning with fresher legs and a fresher sense of where things stand just two weeks prior to the 2008 kickoff.

The Vol players enjoyed Sunday's off day - only their second since camp began Aug. 2 - while head coach Phillip Fulmer and staff reviewed the film from the team's second major scrimmage. The reviews are in and Fulmer has this to say about Saturday night's effort:

"Our first three defensive tackles (Demonte' Bolden, Dan Williams and Walter Fisher) played the best scrimmage they have had, and Victor Thomas took a big step. The challenge for Victor is to continue that and be consistent, be mentally and physically tough all the time. That was a really positive sign from the scrimmage.

"The two defensive ends (Robert Ayers and Wes Brown) played OK and we are expecting more from our backup guys (Ben Martin and Chris Walker). Willie Bohannon has pushed himself into that fifth spot right now.

"The linebackers, Coach Chavis, I think, would tell you, just missed too many tackles. We had too many opportunities that we missed. It's certainly something we addressed this morning. That group is playing with good energy and working hard - that's not the issue. It's just technique things and a little focus and tackling better.

"Secondary-wise, we played pretty well in the scrimmage. They didn't give up anything huge in the passing game but the tackling situation showed up again in the secondary on a few too many plays.

"Offensively, I thought Jonathan (Crompton) played exceptionally well, ran the offense well, managed the clock well -- it was a very positive scrimmage.

"It was great to have Arian (Foster) back out there, Montario (Hardesty) healthy and those two young backs (Lennon Creer and Tauren Poole) showed some things. We had the one fumble by Lennon that was a big hit (by Rod Wilks), but we've got to protect the ball regardless. The running backs had a good scrimmage.

"(Kevin) Cooper probably had his best scrimmage as a fullback since he's been here. That's a real plus for us as he's showing some maturity.

"Our receiving group, I thought, played well and it was good to see Ahmad Paige take a little bit of a step. That was encouraging that he had a chance to play.

"The offensive line played pretty well. Ramone Johnson, right now, is playing like one of the guys who could be a starter. He's pushing himself into a position to help us. With our tight end situation the way it is, we also will play him some at tight end. We're pretty happy with where he is.

"In the tight end group, (Luke) Stocker played well. The young guys, they're just learning. It was a big-time learning experience for them. Austin (Johnson) is a good athlete and we'll be putting him more back a fullback and H-back. Brandon Warren does a nice job -- he can play on or off the ball.

"Our punter (Chad Cunningham) was a little bit inconsistent but had a decent night. The kickoffs were good."

Tennessee practiced in full pads Monday for just shy of two hours. The Vols return to Haslam Field on Tuesday afternoon for their final workout before Wednesday's start to fall semester classes.

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