Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer said junior Ramon Foster is the most consistent pass protector among the handful of offensive linemen UT has tried at right tackle this fall.
“He kind of sets that edge real good from a pass-protection standpoint,” Fulmer said.
Foster swapped positions with sophomore Chris Scott this week. Scott is playing right guard.
Fulmer said Foster has the potential to have the same presence of former UT linemen Fred Weary and Cosey Coleman, two of the most physically dominant linemen in recent UT history.
“From a physical standpoint,” Fulmer said of Foster, “he mismatches a lot of defensive ends with his size.”
No Doubt D-Backs: UT’s defensive backs seem extremely confident despite the fact the Vols have to replace five of their top seven defensive backs from last season.
Safety Jarrod Parrish said watching tape from Saturday’s scrimmage confirmed the Vols were on their game.
“A couple of the younger guys were out of position a little bit, but that’s just from their youth,” Parrish said. “Overall, we had a pretty good day.”
“We don’t have anybody that’s scared to hit anybody here. And we like getting interceptions. Put those things together and we should have a pretty good defensive secondary.”
Mayo’s Man: Junior linebacker Jerod Mayo has taken notice of UT’s freshman tailbacks.
“I’m real impressed with Daryl Vereen,” Mayo said. “He runs the ball downhill hard and (Lennon) Creer has speed to get to the outside. I’m real excited to see those guys.”
Playing middle linebacker, Mayo has a unique perspective when it comes to judging UT’s tailbacks. Vereen has definitely made an impression.
“He hits the hole with force,” Mayo said. “He’s only about 180 pounds but he gets there.”
Practice Report: As UT continues to work on shortcomings in Saturday’s scrimmage, Fulmer said he was pleased with his players’ focus.
Fulmer said the Vols are focusing on solidifying their two-deep chart, hinting that nearly all of UT’s season-opening starters have been determined.
“Our depth is where we’re focused a lot right now,” Fulmer said.
UT held two practices Tuesday and will do the same on Thursday. The Vols will hold morning practices on Wednesday and Friday, followed by a scrimmage on Saturday.
Receivers At QB: Sophomore receiver Lucas Taylor and freshman receiver Gerald Jones both saw time at quarterback during Tuesday’s afternoon practice.
Offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe said previous plans to put Eric Berry behind center are on hold, as the freshman is “overloaded” with preparing to play cornerback.
Once Berry has a better grip of cornerback, he could find himself back in the quarterback rotation.
“They can all throw the ball,” Cutcliffe said. “They can certainly run, so we’re going to continue to see if we can grow with that package and add a little dynamic.
“What we’re trying to do is find playmakers and ways to get touches to our playmakers. That gives you another way to do it.”
Cutcliffe said UT will continue to work on the package. When it may debut, if ever, is anyone’s guess.
“Whether we get it game-ready, we’ll see,” Cutcliffe said.
Snap Count: Running backs coach Kurt Roper has been divvying up first-team tailback snaps between junior Arian Foster and sophomore Montario Hardesty. Coaches have cautiously monitored Hardesty’s number of reps because of a sore hamstring.
Creer and Vereen are splitting second-team snaps. Roper didn’t seem in any hurry to decide who would rise to be the third tailback in place of sophomore LaMarcus Coker, who is suspended indefinitely.
Instead of paring down his group, Roper seemed more intent on getting four ready to play this fall.
“Is three enough? You never think so,” he said.
Last year’s fourth tailback, senior David Yancey, didn’t require much practice time because he had plenty of experience. In a pinch, Roper said he hopes another senior walk-on, Roy Olasimbo, can provide some depth without taking up practice snaps.
Receiver Review: Cutcliffe said UT’s receivers had shown improvement since turning in a “poor” practice on Saturday. Cutcliffe said the key to UT’s improvement at receiver was better adjusting routes to different coverages.
Injury Report: Backup linebacker Ellix Wilson was off crutches on Tuesday as he walked around UT’s practice with a significant limp. The junior suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee last week. He is expected to miss at least another week.
Return Men: Berry, Vereen, freshmen receivers Brent Vinson and Denarius Moore and Arian Foster received most of the kickoff return work on Tuesday.
Vols Honor Bronson, Johnson: Tennessee’s football locker room inside the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center will be named for former Vols Tommy Bronson and Bill Johnson, UT announced Tuesday.
Johnson, a guard from Sparta, Tenn., and Bronson, a fullback and defensive back from Gainesville, Fla., played together 1955-57 and helped Tennessee to a 24-7-1 record and an SEC championship.
Both have been generous supporters of UT athletics and are active in their respective communities.
“Tommy and Bill have helped build the foundation that makes Tennessee football what it is today,” UT coach Phillip Fulmer said in a statement. “The Bronson-Johnson Locker Room will serve as an inspiration for the young men that enter this locker room each day.”