Competition at punter

The Tennessee Vols have a bona-fide pooch kicker but it's nothing the folks at PETA should be concerned about.

David Harrington is a kicker of pooch punts, not a kicker of actual canines. The 6-3, 185-pound transfer from Orange Coast College in California has hit some booming punts in Tennessee's early workouts, yet he averaged a mere 37.2 yards per kick last fall in junior college.

It turns out there's a reason for the modest average: He was going for placement last season, not distance.

"We had two really good punters at Orange Coast, and the coach wanted to use both of us for certain situations," Harrington recalled. "I was pretty good at always hitting it inside the 20-yard line, so Coach said, 'OK, you're the guy that's going to pin 'em down.'"

The other punter, Jake Fields, offered a little more leg strength when Orange Coast needed a booming kick, so he filled that role.

"Coach told him he was the guy that was going to hit it deep," Harrington said. "He interchanged us, and that's kind of the way it worked out."

Ultimately, Harrington may have come a long way to hit short punts.

Veteran Vol fans may recall that Tennessee has enjoyed considerable success using a tandem approach to punting in the past. John Warren handled the pooch-punting in 1981 and 1982, enabling cannon-legged Jimmy Colquitt to average 43.8 yards in '81 and a school-record 46.9 yards in '82. Quarterback Andy Kelley doubled as the pooch-kicker throughout his UT career, platooning with Kent Elmore (1988 and '89), Joey Chapman ('90) and Tom Hutton ('91).

Perhaps the Vols will go with a punting tandem in 2009. Returnee Chad Cunningham (39.5-yard average last fall) could handle the regular chores and Harrington could handle the pooch-punting.

"It's up to the coaches," Harrington said. "I'm just here to do whatever they need me to do. I'm Chad's backup right now. He's the starter. I'm going to be a team player. I'm just going to do whatever I can to help this team."

The obvious question: Why did a California guy choose to travel 2,000 miles to walk on at Tennessee?

"Obviously, the coaching staff," Harrington said, adding that running backs/special teams coach Eddie Gran is "the best in the SEC.

"I just wanted to come here and see what I'm made of."

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