Riggs, Jones shine in scrimmage

Ironically, the two most impressive offensive performers in Friday's UT football scrimmage may not be playing there this fall.

Although he dropped one perfectly thrown bomb from Casey Clausen, transplanted safety Mark Jones ran very crisp routes and made some nice catches in the 90-minute workout. However, he may be back on defense by fall.

''Mark has done a good job for us,'' head coach Phillip Fulmer said. ''We need him on defense, as well, honestly. We need him at both spots.''

Tailback Gerald Riggs Jr, was as impressive running the ball as Jones was catching it, but he, too, may not be touching the football come September. He reportedly has 18 hours of classwork to pass by fall in order to regain his eligibility.

''He's a really fine back,'' Fulmer said, ''but he's got to get his grades in order.''

Clausen passed the football well but threw a pass that safety Gibril Wilson intercepted. Wilson appeared headed for a touchdown return but Clausen --despite a green shirt designating him as a player not to be hit -- made a TD-saving tackle.

Asked if he held his breath when Clausen made the stop, Fulmer deadpanned: ''No. He should've gone after him after throwing a silly ball like that.''

The head man said he wishes Clausen would rely more on throw-aways than scrambles.

''We gave up 41 sacks last year because there were too many times he wanted to scramble when the protection wasn't there, instead of just throwing it away. He's a competitor but he's got to compete in a smarter way and throw some of those balls away.''

Backups QB James Banks' best play was a 33-yard touchdown scramble on which he cut back twice. He threw the ball adequately, played a dozen snaps at receiver and fielded a few punts.

''James made a nice run,'' Fulmer said. ''But there were 10 things in there that if he'd do better he might not be in the down-and-distance where he has to do something like that. He's learning; he's just got to learn faster.''

Overall, the head man seemed satisfied with the scrimmage, UT's last before taking next week off for spring break.

''There were some good things on both sides,'' Fulmer said. ''The big thing is, we've got to take care of the ball better. That's the quickest way to get you beat there is.''

Cedric Houston sprained his ankle but the injury is not believed to be serious. Derrick Tinsley, switched from tailback to receiver because he lacked the durability to carry the ball frequently, also missed time with a sprained ankle.

Rising sophomore Jason Allen and redshirt freshman Antwan Stewart were busy guys, playing perhaps 60 snaps each at cornerback.

''There was nobody else out here,'' Fulmer said. ''The other guys (Jabari Greer, Robert Boulware) are in track. After that, you've got the walk-ons.''

The head man went on to note that Allen and Stewart have ''been unbelievably eager to please ... just busting their rears to be good players.''

Other scrimmage highlights (and lowlights) were as follows:
* Peter Chang, a 185-pound walk-on cornerback, blasted 245-pound fullback Ruben Mayes so hard that the ball squirted five yards backwards. Chang then outbattled Mayes to recover the fumble.

* Linebacker Marvin Mitchell made a nice break on the ball to bat down a Clausen pass over the middle.

* Antwan Stewart came up and threw C.J. Fayton for a loss after Fayton caught a pass in the right flat.

* J.T. Mapu jumped offsides on consecutive plays, sending defensive coordinator John Chavis into a tirade that ended with Mapu being banished to the sidelines for probably 15 minutes.

* Fayton outbattled Mark Jones and Jason Allen to gather in a pass of roughly 45 yards from Clausen.

* Riggs made back-to-back runs of 10 yards right up the gut. Of course, that may be more an indictment of the middle of the Vol defense than a sign that Riggs is ready to live up to his prep All-America billing. He later hit the middle, found nothing, then bounced outside for a nice nine-yard gain. On the next play he circled left end for an 11-yard gain.

* Converted cornerback Corey Larkins showed a tremendous burst of speed on a 13-yard sweep of left end.

* Ovince St. Preux, switched from end to linebacker, had a nice sack on a blitz up the middle.

* Clausen hit Mark Jones on a slant for a 20-yard gain.

* Jason Allen made a nifty breakup on a perfectly thrown fade route from Clausen to Montrell Jones in the back of the end zone.

* Tony Brown caught an 11-yard TD pass from Clausen on a crossing route.

* Mark Jones showed a nice burst of speed on a 25-yard end around.

* Linebacker Omar Gaither made an excellent hit on Troy Fleming to hold a flare pass to no gain.

* Linebacker Jason Mitchell made a big hit on receiver Chris Hannon.

* When Clausen scrambled out of the pocket to his right, an official blew his whistle. Clausen fired a 40-yard pass downfield that was nearly completed, then turned to the official and demanded, ''What did you throw the whistle for?'' The response: ''I saw your green shirt.''

* Linebacker Jon Poe made a nice hit on Riggs to stop him for no gain.

* Clausen hit C.J. Fayton in the midsection with a 10-yard ''out'' but Fayton dropped the ball. Two plays later, Clausen hit Mark Jones in stride with a perfectly thrown 50-yard bomb -- and Jones dropped it. Jones atoned moments later by making a nice catch on a 15-yard crossing pattern.

* Defensive tackle Andre Taylor made a huge hit on C.J. Leak as the backup QB scrambled out of the pass pocket.


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