Look out for No. 1

Annoyed that two of his players were contributing more headaches than plays earlier this spring, Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin responded by taking away their jersey numbers.

Wide receiver Brandon Warren was forced to give up jersey No. 1. Tailback Lennon Creer was forced to surrender No. 3. Their reactions to practicing in blank jerseys were quite dramatic but quite different. Warren decided to quit being a distraction; Creer decided to quit being a Volunteer.

Saturday, while Creer was pondering his transfer options, Warren was putting on a show for the 51,488 fans attending the Orange & White spring game. Having re-earned the No. 1 on his jersey, the 6-2, 218-pound Alcoa native caught four passes for 50 yards and two touchdowns.

"I think it's a pretty powerful story," Kiffin said.

Noting that Warren's off-the-field actions earlier this spring were not appropriate for someone "representing us and the University of Tennessee," the head man felt compelled to take decisive action.

"Single-digit numbers are very powerful here, so we took his away from him ... we took Lennon's away from him," Kiffin recalled. "One guy responded one way, came out and had a great spring game, and the other guy quit.

"I like the way Brandon responded."

No wonder. Warren not only got his number back; he got his groove back. His performance on Saturday was his best scrimmage outing of the spring by far.

Asked following the O&W Game about losing his number, Warren smiled sheepishly as he responded.

"Obviously, I needed to perform at a higher level," he said. "I guess Coach expected a little more out of me. I just had to put my heart into it, give it all I've got every day I came out."

After catching just 10 passes for 85 yards last season, Warren was understandably elated to play a key role on Saturday, especially with 50,000 fans watching.

"It was fun just to come out and play in front of a crowd ... almost like a real game," he said. "Coach structured it like it was a real game. It was fun to come out and play."

Still, playing is a lot more fun when you're contributing, as Warren was on Saturday.

"When my number's called, it's fine," he said. "If Coach wants to throw me the ball, I'd better catch the ball. That's it."

Warren's switch from tight end to wide receiver, though difficult, seems to be progressing steadily.

"It's a new position for me," he said. "I played a little bit split out (in high school) but not as much ... not on this level. It's taken a little time for me to get comfortable but I feel like I'm starting to come into my own a little bit."

After catching 28 passes en route to earning Freshman All-America honors at Florida State in 2006, Warren found great expectations awaiting him when he transferred to Tennessee. His meager production last fall led some fans to doubt him, making Saturday's performance even sweeter.

"That's nothing but fire ... motivation," he said. "It's nothing but motivation, and I love it."

Although he is bigger than the defensive backs he routinely faces, Warren's advantage is nullified by the fact he is slower than they are. He's determined to fix that.

"Mainly my speed is what I'm going to work on the most," he said of his summer plans. "I do feel more at an advantage, with my size and stuff, being matched up on smaller guys, cornerbacks and stuff."

With the defense limited to two fronts, Tennessee's offense had a big day Saturday. The running backs piled up 231 rushing yards (averaging 4.4 yards per carry) and the passers completed 38 of 70 attempts for 434 yards and four touchdowns. There was but one turnover.

"I think we took care of the ball good," Warren said. "The offense moved the ball well, 1s and 2s. I feel like it's a new team, and we all have a different mindset ... a championship mindset."


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