A natural at Neyland

One Tennessee quarterback routinely steps up his play when he steps inside Neyland Stadium. That could be a real plus, since the 2009 Vols play eight of their 12 games there.

Sophomore B. J. Coleman was at it again on Saturday. Eight days after completing 11 of 16 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns in the final spring tuneup scrimmage, he went 13 of 22 for 160 yards and two more TDs in the Orange & White Game. All told, Coleman's last two forays onto the Vols' home field show him 24 of 38 for 311 yards and four TDs.

"He looked good today ... again," head coach Lane Kiffin said. "That's the second time in the stadium in a row that he's looked good. He made a great play down there near the goal line to keep it (a play) alive. He seems to have some game presence about him. When we get in here he seems to play better than in practice. It was good to see."

Coleman concedes that he elevates his game to another level when he's playing at Neyland Stadium instead of the Haslam Field practice facility.

"Absolutely," he said. "I take practice very seriously. Practice is something I enjoy but, at the same time, I understand what practice is for. Practice is when you learn to execute those plays.

"Mistakes are going to happen in practice. That's practice. If you throw an interception you learn from it. Then, when you come to this stadium and the pressure's on you, that's when you can relax and just play the game. Practice has prepared you for that."

Although senior Jonathan Crompton guided the No. 1 offense on Saturday, Coleman believes he has a legitimate shot at being the starting quarterback when Tennessee hosts Western Kentucky Sept. 5 in the '09 opener.

"Absolutely. One hundred percent," he said. "I feel very confident. I feel like I've got a lot of respect from those guys on the offensive and defensive side of the football.

"My goal is to be a leader at the quarterback position. It's been instilled in me all my life (that the quarterback) is held to a higher standard. The quarterback is somebody who comes in first and leaves last. You hear that scenario all the time but it's true. You've got to be able to walk the walk and talk the talk. It's very important that I be the leader and be a good example for these guys. I feel I can absolutely do that."

Typically, the No. 1 quarterback assumes the responsibility of leading offseason workouts. The fact Crompton, Coleman and junior Nick Stephens are still vying for that distinction could complicate matters a bit.

"I don't know if you have to have a depth chart," Coleman said, choosing his words carefully. "But, at the same time, you don't want people being pulled in three different ways."

Asked point-blank how soon a first-team QB needs to be tabbed, Coleman deftly avoided the loaded question:

"It's up to Coach Kiffin ... when he wants to decide to name one."


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