Flippin' with Britton

Tennessee is still waiting for its offense to flip the switch, but at least the kicking game now has a guy who can flip the field.

That would be senior punter Britton Colquitt, who returns to action this weekend at Georgia after serving a five-game disciplinary suspension stemming from a DUI arrest last February. Since Tennessee's net punting average without him (29.0 yards) ranked 115th among 119 NCAA Div. 1-A programs, Colquitt could be a difference-maker Saturday in Athens.

"I'm as sharp as I've ever been right now," he said. "My leg is fresh."

Meanwhile, his confidence is soaring. Although he was ineligible to play prior to this week, Colquitt was allowed to practice with his teammates. He performed so well in workouts that he can hardly wait to take the field Saturday at Sanford Stadium.

"I feel really comfortable. I've been anticipating it," he said. "I've played this game a thousand times in my mind already. I'm very confident in the way I've been kicking the ball, how fresh my legs are."

Although Tennessee is limping along with a 2-3 overall record and an 0-2 SEC mark, Colquitt believes the Vols are on the verge of a turnaround ... a turnaround he can help orchestrate.

"Field position can really help because our team's starting to click in all of the different ways that it wasn't," he said. "If we can avoid a few mistakes and win the field-position game, I think we've got a real good shot at doing some really cool things this year."

Phillip Fulmer thinks so, too.

"Britton being back can make a difference in the game," the Vols' head man said. "If you start adding up 10 yards a punt over four, five, six punts in a game, that's a lot of field position."

Although he is a two-time All-SEC selection who ranked No. 7 nationally with a 44.9-yard average in 2006, Colquitt believes he is a far better punter now than he was in previous years.

"I'm more technically sound and I'm more confident in my game," he said. "Instead of going out there on excitement, I'm ready for whatever happens.

"I hope I'll be able to control the field position, give us that extra little edge that we haven't had maybe.... My distance has gotten better, my hang time has gotten a lot better, my placement and everything. I'm just better all around."

Still, how much difference can a punter make? A lot, according to Fulmer.

"I hope he's learned a heck of a lesson," the head man said, "because our team has paid a pretty big price for his inappropriate behavior."

To his credit, Colquitt seems sincerely saddened by the impact his DUI arrest had on Vol teammates. He chose not face them on game days, preferring to watch the telecasts from his family's Knoxville home.

"It was just one of those things where I didn't feel comfortable doing it," he said. "I felt more comfortable watching on TV, just kind of being by myself and having my own thoughts. It just didn't feel right."

Of course, watching his team lose without him didn't feel right, either.

"It was weird," he recalled, "and I obviously didn't like it."

Mistakes in the kicking game cost Tennessee dearly while Colquitt was suspended. A blocked punt produced a gift touchdown in a Game 1 loss at UCLA. A misplaced punt led to a 78-yard touchdown return in a Game 3 loss to Florida.

What was Colquitt's reaction as he watched these mishaps on his home TV set?

"I was kind of looking around my house to make sure nobody was looking at me," he said. "I kind of felt responsible in a way."

Now that Colquitt is getting an opportunity to redeem himself, he is determined to make the most of it.

"I'm going to take advantage and be thankful for every opportunity," he said. "God has given me an opportunity to be here on a big stage and to have a lot of positive or negative effect on a lot of people."

Acknowledging that he has had "a lot of negative effect" to date, Colquitt is eager to repair his legacy in what's left of his senior season.

"I think this has given me a chance to really get my life back on track, as far as my relationship with God and socially – not doing the things I used to do," he said. "I'm taking the weight of these responsibilities on my shoulders, knowing I'm in the public eye and I feel like He's really revived me from that.

"I've got the opportunity again, and I'm thankful for that. It's just a blessing."

Like having a guy on your team who can flip field position.


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