Tackling a new role

One Tennessee Vol who couldn't earn meaningful playing time at one position last fall will be in the mix at three positions this fall.

That would be Ramone Johnson. Thanks to a superb preseason camp, the massive 6-5, 315-pound sophomore from Chicago has closed the gap on first-team offensive tackles Chris Scott and Ramon Foster. He even earned a few snaps with the No. 1 line in the Vols' most recent scrimmage.

"Ramone Johnson right now is playing like one of the guys who could be a starter," head coach Phillip Fulmer said recently. "He's pushing himself into a position to help us."

First-year offensive coordinator Dave Clawson thinks so, too.

"We came into camp feeling like we had a solid six, and the challenge was to find a solid seven and a solid eight," Clawson said. "I think Ramone has had a real consistent camp. He has to continue to do that but, based on his performance these last three weeks, he's a guy that I'm comfortable with when he's with the first group."

Clawson admits that he didn't see much from Johnson last spring that inspired confidence. Johnson's work in preseason, however, has won him a new supporter. Clawson is now solidly in his corner.

"That has changed from the end of the spring," the coordinator said. "At the end of the spring I didn't feel that way but now I do feel that way."

Johnson has made so much progress that he projects to see playing time this fall at right tackle, left tackle and tight end, where the recent loss of Jeff Cottam (back injury) has left the Vols with very little depth.

"With our tight end situation the way it is, we also will play him some at tight end," Fulmer noted. "We're pretty happy with where he is."

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