Tuesday Spring Practice Report

Pads and all, the 2003 Tennessee Volunteers hit the practice field today ready to play some football on Wednesday. That's right. Wednesday was full contact scrimmaging.

There were sacks, there were break-away runs and yes, there were also fumbles. But at this point, there is a lot of time for improvement.

"We had a good day," said head coach Phillip Fulmer after the practice. "It's wonderful to have the weather we've had. The kids have had a good attitude about trying to get better. We still obviously have a long way to go with a long list of folks, but the attitudes have been pretty good."

Gerald Riggs Jr. saw a lot more touches in the practice. Riggs, who didn't see as much playing time as the other backs due to persistent injuries, has a lot of potential at UT.

"Gerald is a player," said Fulmer. "He can help this team out a lot. He needs to get his act together with his academics. Last year he had a bad ankle and had a hard time learning the offence then he broke his finger. But he has done a lot of growing and maturing since last year. Really you can't expect them to make an impact as a freshman."

Casey Clausen had company in the quarterback position once again. Clausen was splitting time with Banks mainly.

"Banks made a play or two but he made some bad ones too," Fulmer said. "We need consistent guys who can at least be better than average every play. That's what they're fighting for is to be consistent."

Newcomer Steven Jones made an impression on the coach. Fulmer said,"Jone's attitude was good. He doesn't know football at this level yet, but he is ready to hit anything that moves."

So,with nothing to lose and everything to prove, the players tested each other as many met for the first time in hand-to-hand combat. The outcome was that the Vols are one practice closer to knowing who will make it and who won't.

"With twenty or so coming in we are a different football team, said Fulmer. "This is the foundation. It's whether you make the team. There is really nothing like a little scrimmage. It's how football is played. When preparing for a game, you can tell an awful lot about a few players without going full speed, but the best way to find out about some young players is let them play 11 on 11."

The goal for the spring is without a doubt preparation for the fall, the oncoming season. And according to Fulmer, the team is behind. "We are so far away in some positions," said Fulmer. "You are building a team one player at a time, one drill at a time, one play at a time and one practice at a time. We'll get the rest (depth in the positions) out of them, and everything will be ok."

Maybe the biggest statement on Tuesday was the absence of green shirts. Every player on the field had either a white or an orange shirt. What does this mean? Well obviously, this means no protection and no free rides for anyone. So every player from Clausen to Cedric Houston saw some action on Tuesday with no hits barred.

"We are trying to make a point," said Fulmer. "We are 85th in the country in total offense, and that's just not us."

Whether this new outlook of no holds even on the good players will work can only be seen in the future. But rest assured that every player will know what it is like to be hit before that first game. And maybe the 2003 squad will be a bit tougher minded in the fall.

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