Newcomers are pleasing Fulmer

In an otherwise disappointing UT football season season, one of the bright spots has been the play of the freshmen. Several have been called on to perform, and most have distinguished themselves.

''Cody Douglas has really played well,'' head coach Phillip Fulmer said of the 6-5, 320-pound offensive tackle profiled in this week's issue of Rocky Top News. ''I think he's going to push for a starting job next year, even though we have a number of guys returning.''

Fulmer also sees a bright future for guard Rob Smith, another massive blocker.

''It was nice to get Rob Smith in the (Vanderbilt) game,'' Fulmer said. ''He did a nice job.''

So did Aaron Kirkland, who recently moved from tight end to fullback due to UT's lack of depth at the latter.

''By necessity, we had to move Aaron Kirkland to fullback,'' Fulmer said, ''but he went in there and did a nice job. I can see him playing more in this ball game (Kentucky) and, if we're able to have another one, even more in that one because he's a big, physical, very willing guy. He's catching on pretty quick. The tight end/fullback thing fits enough that it wasn't that foreign to him, and he was able to do that (adjust).''

Fulmer also likes what he has seen from a couple of young cornerbacks -- redshirt freshman Robert Boulware and true freshman Jason Allen.

''Boulware continues to make progress,'' Fulmer said, ''and Jason Allen continues to make progress. They got in some snaps (vs. Vandy) and did some good things.''

At 6-2 and 200 pounds, Allen has unusual size for a cornerback. This leads some to speculate that he'll wind up playing safety.

''He can play either one,'' Fulmer said. ''Corner's a little easier to learn, a little harder to do. We'll find his niche. There's no telling how big he's going to get, so we'll see how that shakes out.''

Another freshman was making big strides until he suffered an injury last Saturday that probably will sideline him until spring practice.

''I'm disappointed that Marvin Mitchell got hurt because he was on a really good track,'' Fulmer said, referring to UT's 6-2, 235-pound freshman middle linebacker.

Another young 'backer who has caught the coach's eye is redshirt freshman Jason Mitchell, who has started the last two ballgames. He was profiled in last week's Rocky Top News.

''Jason Mitchell has made as much improvement as you could expect from one start to the second,'' Fulmer said. ''He played really well in the last ballgame, except for a couple of mental things he didn't do well.''

Perhaps Tennessee's brightest prospect is world-class sprinter Jonathan Wade, who is learning to play wide receiver after toiling mostly as a cornerback in high school.

''Jonathan has done OK,'' Fulmer said. ''He certainly has the talent. He needs to continue to learn and progress. We'd all like that to be faster. He does some things really well and some other things not as well as you'd like. But he is a great prospect.''

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