April 3, 2008

Vols working toward 2nd major scrimmage

Phillip Fulmer spent the opening of Tennessee's football practice Thursday inside Neyland-Thompson Sports Center urging his team -- emphatically -- to generate better and more consistent effort.

By the close of the Vols' eight spring session -- officially pushing them beyond the midpoint of their 15 drills, Fulmer noted he would learn with Saturday's second infrasound scrimmage how much improvement has been made.

"Tuesday's (in-practice) scrimmage wasn't really what we wanted; a lot of young guys just couldn't understand the level that they've got to reach to play," Fulmer said.

"It's still a battle and it's going to be a battle. I'm expecting to see better results on Saturday. Everything today was geared around getting better results on Saturday."

The Vols last week had about 40 percent of their offense under new coordinator Dave Clawson installed for their first major scrimmage, including just two running plays. They expect to be between 60-70 percent for Saturday's upcoming scrimmage and have doubled their running playbook.

"We've added two more plays, so we've got about 70 percent of the running game in now," Clawson said.

Senior tailback Arian Foster, on pace to become UT's all-time leading rusher by midseason, received minimal work in the opening scrimmage. He wouldn't mind shouldering a heavier load this week.

"We're still doing installation, so there's still part of the offense that's not in," said Foster, who last season rushed for 1,193 yards and has nearly 2,400 in his career. "I like to work during spring. I'm not going to complain about that.

"We're going to have a few more running plays for Saturday."

With both Montario Hardesty and freshman Tauren Poole sitting out Thursday's practice, depth at tailback in this week's scrimmage could mandate increased work for the proven Foster. Hardesty has some swelling in his knee and is bothered by an "ankle or shin," according to Fulmer, who said Poole missed because of a sore knee.

"I want to keep him sharp and keep him healthy and make sure we're getting ready for the fall," Fulmer said of Foster. "We're having a little bit of a tough time at tailback right now. We started off with great depth. � All of a sudden the tailback depth is not what it was."

CONSISTENT CUNNINGHAM? Sophomore punter Chad Cunningham, likely to handle the team's starting punting duties while Britton Colquitt serves a five-game suspension to open the 2008 season, is striving for consistency.

"You always approach it the same way. I'm really working on my consistency right now, because I feel like that's where I need my biggest (improvement)," said the Dawsonville, Ga., native. I'm getting my direction down, and everything's starting to come together. I feel like I had a good scrimmage on Saturday, and I just want to build on that every day."

Cunningham also is working to generate a quicker release.

"That's one of the biggest things. If you don't get the kick off, then it's going to get blocked, and that's not going to be good," he said. "The biggest thing for me is getting it off and being consistent."

STOKED UP Four-star wideout Je'Ron Stokes took in the Vols' Thursday practice. A 6-foot-1, 178-pounder from Philadelphia, Stokes is the No. 44 player in Rivals.com's top 100 in 2009. He's got more than a dozen offers, including Tennessee.

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