Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer remains “hopeful” that Britton Colquitt will be ready for Saturday’s season-opener against No. 12 California.
But that doesn’t mean Colquitt’s role against the Golden Bears will be an easy decision.
“Do we risk him kicking off... and perhaps causing a problem for the rest of the season?” Fulmer said during his Sunday teleconference. “That’s going to be up to the trainers and him and how things go. I do believe he’ll be available to do everything.”
Tennessee’s depth chart lists freshman Daniel Lincoln as the starter at kicker, and Fulmer said his confidence in the redshirt freshman has grown throughout fall camp.
That confidence could extend to kickoffs as well.
“I’m pretty comfortable with Daniel kicking extra points and field goals, and perhaps even kicking off,” Fulmer said. “Kicking off might be the most strenuous thing to a quad injury you could do. We’ll see how that shakes as we go through the week.”
Action For Jackson? Fulmer stopped short of giving a definitive answer about whether he would kick away from Cal All-American DeSean Jackson on punt returns.
Jackson returned four punts for touchdowns last season — both school and Pac-10 Conference records — and averaged 18.2 yards per return.
Despite those numbers, Fulmer has confidence in Colquitt’s leg and the Vols’ coverage team.
“We’ve got a good punter, and hopefully we can punt it high enough that we can get it covered,” Fulmer said.
UT last gave up a punt-return touchdown to Georgia’s Mikey Henderson in October 2006.
Cottam For Cottam: Sophomore Jeff Cottam will start in place of his injured older brother, senior Brad Cottam, against Cal.
Both are 6-foot-8, yet despite the fact Jeff weighs 10 pounds less than his brother at 260, Fulmer said Jeff is the better blocker.
“Brad probably is a better route-runner and receiver at this point,” Fulmer said. “Jeff is certainly adequate at that and getting better all the time.
“Jeff actually brings a more physical presence than Brad did. He’s bigger and stronger and is able to handle himself pretty good with defensive ends or linebackers or people he’s asked to block.”
O’Neal Improving: Junior college receiver Kenny O’Neal has improved over the last week in his knowledge of the offense, Fulmer said.
The 6-foot, 195-pound O’Neal struggled with consistency during UT’s second scrimmage, but Fulmer said the former Florida State receiver has made significant strides at being in the right place at the right time.
“The biggest thing a receiver’s got to do is be in the right place and then make a play,” Fulmer said. “Kenny had gotten himself on a number of occasions where he just wasn’t in the right place. Right now he’s doing that much better.”
Extra Points: Tennessee is listed as anywhere from a 5½- to 6-point underdog to California in early lines available Sunday. ... Linebacker Jerod Mayo is one of 103 play-ers named to the Lombardi Award watch list. ... Center Josh McNeil is one of just five sophomores on the Rimington Trophy watch list. ... The exact time for Saturday’s kickoff is 8:13 EDT. ... Tennessee is only the second member of the SEC to play at Cal. In 1960, the Golden Bears hosted Tulane, which left the SEC after the 1965 season and was independent until joining Conference USA in 1996.
Mike Strange contributed to this report.
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.