Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer believes he may have struck the perfect balance this year. Except for defensive tackle Chase Nelson (out for the year with a knee injury) and tight end Jeff Cottam (out six to eight weeks with a back problem) all of the key Vols should be ready to suit up when Tennessee opens the 2008 season one week from tonight at UCLA.
"We have really worked at trying to be healthy," Fulmer said. "We also have worked like heck to get a lot of full-speed snaps."
The Vols staged a two-hour full-speed scrimmage last Thursday, just 10 days shy of the opener. Fortunately for them, no significant injuries occurred.
"That's as many full-speed snaps this close to a game as we've ever done," Fulmer said. "We've been very fortunate, and I think the kids have done a good job of staying up on each other, staying off the ground and that sort of thing."
The head man said several players suffered minor injuries during the final preseason scrimmage but all returned to action later in the workout.
"We had a couple of guys who got nicked that got right back in there," he noted, "so they're showing some toughness in that way."
Fulmer withheld star tailback Arian Foster from the final scrimmage, limiting him to one carry at the very end of the workout.
"He's a proven back, and we weren't going to take a risk of getting him hurt," Fulmer said. "Those other three (tailbacks) needed a lot of work, so we took that opportunity to do that."
Linebacker Gerald Williams also missed the scrimmage but Fulmer said he was merely "finishing up his academic things."
Whereas Tennessee goes into the opener relatively healthy, UCLA will be limping into Game 1. The Bruins already have lost No. 1 quarterback Ben Olson, along with three of their best offensive linemen.