Bartholomew grabs spotlight

You could've gotten great odds that Ben Bartholomew would be the leading receiver in Tennessee's Friday football scrimmage ... probably something along the lines of 100 to 1.

That's the way things turned out, though. Switched from fullback to tight end earlier this spring, he looked as if he'd played the position all of his life Friday at Neyland Stadium. The 6-2 250-pound sophomore from Nashville led all Vols in both receptions (four) and receiving yards (53). His last catch, a 14-yard strike from B. J. Coleman, produced the scrimmage's final touchdown.

Naturally, no one was happier about Ben Bartholomew's performance than tight ends coach James Cregg.

"I thought he did a great job," Cregg said. "Last week he was hampered by a hamstring but today I thought he did a really good job, came in and made some really good plays for us."

Coleman, who completed all four of the passes to Bartholomew on Friday, was equally complimentary following the scrimmage.

"Ben's doing a great job," the sophomore quarterback said. "He's a big, strong kid - somebody you can always rely on to be where he's supposed to be.

"It (tight end) is new for him, so he's learning how to use different releases to get off the line. But he's doing an excellent job and I'm sure he's going to be prepared come fall."

Bartholomew comes by his ability and his fondness for orange honestly. He is a grandson of former Vol blocking back Sam Bartholomew (1937-39) and the younger brother of former UT fullback Will Bartholomew (1998-2001).

Although he played enough to letter as a true freshman in 2008, Ben Bartholomew failed to record a carry, a catch or even a special-teams tackle last fall. He did, however, exhibit excellent potential ... potential that he managed to exploit Friday afternoon at Neyland Stadium. He ran good routes and showed excellent hands in registering catches of 10, 13, 16 and 14 yards.

"He finds a way to make plays," Cregg said. "Today he just found a way to make plays. He has great hands and athleticism."

Although Bartholomew looked quite comfortable at tight end, his days at fullback are far from finished. In Tennessee's offensive scheme, the positions are similar enough that he can switch back and forth.

"Yeah, he does that," Cregg said. "When we bring in two tight ends he'll end up playing the fullback spot."

Given the athleticism and intelligence he has shown, a versatile guy such as Bartholomew should have no trouble alternating between fullback and tight end in the season ahead.

"It's not too difficult," Cregg said. "Sometimes you just have to block a bigger guy on the line of scrimmage ... that's where the defensive end goes. Really, the (tight end and fullback) positions are pretty much intertwined."

Bartholomew's emergence as a tight end couldn't have come at a better time. With Aaron Douglas moved to offensive tackle and Brandon Warren switched to wide receiver, the Vols were down to two tight ends. Worse, both of them – senior Jeff Cottam and junior Luke Stocker – have been slowed by injuries lately.

Cottam missed Friday's scrimmage with what Cregg termed "some kind of knee bruise or contusion. I expect he'll be fine. The trainers just want to limit his work right now."

Stocker played Friday but missed time earlier this week after Cregg said he exhibited "symptoms of a concussion" in a couple of recent workouts.

"We're pretty thin right now," the Vol aide conceded, "but I was pleased with what Ben did today. I thought he really showed up and helped us, so we're real excited to see that."

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