Mitchell is improving; help coming from Martin, Walker

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Tennessee defensive end Xavier Mitchell has responded well since returning to contact Wednesday and could play in Saturday’s 7 p.m. home-opener against Southern Miss (TV: Pay-per-view).

Mitchell suffered a concussion after colliding with teammate Eric Berry late in the Vols’ 45-31 loss at No. 10 California last week.

The senior from Long Beach, Miss., is the Vols’ best pass rusher — but UT coach Phillip Fulmer said a pair of freshmen are coming closer to being able to contribute at defensive end.

True freshman defensive end Ben Martin (knee) will not play against Southern Miss, but is expected to return to practice on Monday in preparation for next week’s trip to defending SEC champion Florida.

Chris Walker, originally signed as a linebacker, has progressed well since moving to defensive end midway through fall camp.

"He could play linebacker, but we just have such a need for a young speed-rush defensive end and he kind of gives us that right now," Fulmer said. "I’m pretty encouraged about that."

Also up front, Dan Williams is still expected to start in place of senior J.T. Mapu at tackle opposite Demonte’ Bolden, however both will see significant playing time against the Golden Eagles.

"Both of them will play, and play a lot," Fulmer said. "(Mapu) knew he didn’t play particularly well in the first game. He wants to play better. I expect to see lots of good things from J.T."

Middle Man: Center Josh McNeil said communication along the offensive line will be of utmost importance against Southern Miss’ unorthodox defense, which often changes its look just prior to the snap.

"If you know your assignments well, no matter what happens you can always go full speed," McNeil said.

McNeil, a Collins, Miss., native, bears much of the responsibility for making sure the Vols make the correct adjustments up front.

"They run everything," he said of the Golden Eagles’ defense. "They run every defense you can think of."

Tee It Up: Backup punter Chad Cunningham will be the first to kick off Saturday, however Fulmer said that place kicker Daniel Lincoln will also kick off.

Lincoln handled the kickoff duties early against Cal before giving way to Cunningham late. Fulmer said both have shown improvement this week in practice.

Walk-on kicker Devin Mathis will dress out Saturday, giving the Vols four kickers on the sideline.

Kerin’s Cause: Second Harvest Food Bank, in cooperation with UT, will distribute "Power Towels" before Saturday’s game for a suggested $5 donation as part of the 16th annual Tim Kerin Memorial Drive.

Students, staff and volunteers will be collection donations at every gate outside Neyland Stadium. Second Harvest is asking fans to contribute $5 for the towel or give $1, enough to provide four meals.

The fundraiser is in memory of Tennessee’s late head athelitc trainer, Tim Kerin.

Injury Report: Punter Britton Colquitt (quadriceps) will be a game-time decision, Fulmer said, much like last week at California.

"Britton, I think, will be available," Fulmer said. "Just like last week, we really don’t know up until game time, but I believe he’ll be able to punt."

Dave Hooker contributed to this report.

Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.

© 2007 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 20

agentorange writes:

Sit Britton and Ainge for this game and let them heal up for the Swamp. We beat Fla and all is good. Anybody else see Peyton put on a clinic tonight? Beautiful.

andy112382#209793 writes:

Four kickers on the sideline, that has to be nearing a record of some sort for us. Hey, whatever it takes to get the right guy in there. I say rest Colquitt and ensure he is good for the trip to the swamp. That will be a game where things such as good, strategic punting will mean a lot.....but then again, I'd love just to go blow them away and not have to punt against their young defense! Just take care of business against SoMiss and destroy the gators, all will be back on track then!!!! GO VOLS!!!

andy112382#209793 writes:

Yea, I saw Peyton tonight, looked great, pretty darn impressive showing by the Colts, their defense was solid. Of course, I was especially happy since Peyton in my QB on my espn fantasy league!

Dirtdobber writes:

Peyton lit it up as usual. That says a lot for the UT program. Peyton will go down as the best qb in the history of football- no question, the best passer of all time; thank goodness while at UT they got the most out of him allowing him to hand it off to the running backs up the middle every time. just think what he could have done if we hadnt tried to get back to Tennessee Football every week- smash mouth and would have allowed him to open it up!

Throw the dang ball and the running game will take care of itself!

This is a prime example of great talent being wasted at UT!

Dirtdobber writes:

CRVol- couldnt agree more! Hey coach- Unless you got Reggie White on the bench- personel change is not the answer. The problem is that you got 6 blocking 4- The qb has all day to throw the ball! Get real and quit being so dang conservative!

TNvolunteer writes:

Wes Brown played a little Saturday, but not as much as he should have...I dont understand why we have so many problems on defense..i just cant...I mean we some 30+ practices and 4 scrimmages in fall camp and still cant get it right??? Our starting ends should be X. Mitchell and Wes Brown/Robert Ayers...Ayers was a highly ranked LB coming out of high school...why is he now playing DE...That is another thing.Why do we change a kids position where he excelled at in high school and change it in college..all that does is make his development slower!

TNvolunteer writes:

I know stj18..but when you add bulk to slows them down...Take a look around the many other schools move safties to lb, lb's to de, and de to dt??? not many...Recruit kids to play the position that they play...I am sure if you walked into a top recruits house and said " son you are one of the most sought after LB's in the country...if you come to Tennessee I will get you on the field at DE..." That kids is gonna be like..DE..i am a LB coach...Sorry!

TNvolunteer writes:

I think that is why they moved Andre Mathis to DE...He was a man child at 245 lbs...Why he was moved????? Andre Mathis could have been a great SEC MLB...He had size, strenght, and speed...but they moved him to DE and he will not see any signifigant playing time until next year.

TNvolunteer writes:

If guys like Rae Sykes,Cory Hall, or Gerald Williams make it to campus next fall....Mathis will be burried on the depth chart...Those guys are true DE's with size and speed..Cory Hall is a MAN CHILD at 6'5, 260+...Chavis can we please move Mathis back to his natural position, MLB!!!

Another thing...why did the coaches move Adam Myers-White to LB...wasnt he a highly rated DB?

When Gerald Williams arrives on campus he will be like 24 year old freshman or something...if he isnt somewhere in the starting line-up or 2nd team....there is something wrong!

TNvolunteer writes:

Gerald Williams will be a sophomore....He sat out he first year out of high school...then played one year at Hargrave Millitary Acadamy...and this year is at a JUCO school..He will be a sophomore next year.

GreerVol22 writes:

is it just me or is College football trending towards a PAC-10 format? That is, just so, so defense and a phooey load of points on offense.

ilove_football brought up a good point in that the #8 team gave up 500+yards to MTSU of all people. Think about it, with the exception of LSU and Penn State, does anyone in the Top 15 have a truly dominant defense? No. There just good enough on D to beat you by 10-14 points...

GreerVol22 writes:

My guess is that Cutcliff has figured our D is hopeless so he had better score on every possesion or we dont stand a chance...

GreerVol22 writes:

And no Louisville does not deserve to be ranked and is further proof that as long as we have the system we have, there should be no polls until the BCS poll starts. But, there has to be some fodder for TV guys to jaw about.

GreerVol22 writes:

Yes,but Phil does not think like Cutt and if he tells Cutt to kill 10 minutes of clock and get three points or even a punt to the two yard line then...however, sounds as if Phil said screwit, handle the offense, i have to play defensive roulette.

andy112382#209793 writes:

Wardlow will have another punt block soon. Remeber the one at georgia he had last season? I don't know who remembers, but he was pretty darn close again at Cal to getting one. I could see him getting another one, or more! He seems to have a knack for getting around the corner on punts.

bigbluevol writes:

Walker actually played defensive end in high school early and was moved to LB later on, but played both. He said so in a story on here in early August. As for moving some players to different positions, I think it can be a disaster sometimes, but other times it's necessitated by a guy's growth. When some players hit the weights at UT, they put on muscle and bulk up. This can result in a loss of speed. Myers-White was not a particularly fast DB. When he began to fill out, it was better to move him to LB rather than have him try to keep up with WR's. Some guys respond well to position moves: Anthony Sessions, Hefney, Leonard Little, Al Wilson (he was a DB in high school, I don't hear anyone complaining about that move). Others don't respond well: Bernard Jackson, Fisher hasn't seemed to, potentially not Mathis though time will tell. Some 18-23 year olds are still developing, let's not forget that.

invisiblekid writes:

Looking ahead to Southern Miss now that everyone seems to be on the same page with weights and 40 times of the Vols. Offensively, I don't think they'll compare to the speed or, more importantly, the coaching that we saw last week at Cal. Their RB's seem to be the bright spot with Fletcher and a true freshman , Easterling. He got offers from ND, FL ST, FL and Miami and could well be another Best. Defensively, they return 9 starters from a defense that ranked 30 in total defense and 28 in scoring defense. Pretty impressive until you look at their pathetic schedule, their two toughest games were blowout losses to the Gators and Hokies. I think the Vols defense will be properly motivated and look much better, albeit against a much worse offense. Questions about the defense will really be answered in the Swamp IMO. Offensively, they should get enough out of Foster and the dink and dunk to win. Not really expecting much from Coker upon his return, hope I am wrong though.

Dirtdobber writes:

jcvet great post! if a qb has all day to throw the ball- it doesnt matter if you have 5 ronnie lotts playing db- the receiver is going to get open. If you are getting beat constantly rushing 4- then start getting pressure any way you can! if you cant get there with 4 rush 5, if not 5 then rush 6, if not 6 then 7- Put the dam qb on his back every play- give him something to think about while he's on the sideline about how he will get his head buried in the turf if he holds on to ball! Unlike longshoreman who stood on sideline dreaming about smoking week after game!

budd#207344 writes:

you guys complain about Fulmer when he doesn't play freshman and now you complain when he does. That is an obvious sign of an idiot

Ironcity writes:

budd your spot on. It should not take a blitz to get the QB in an obvious pass situation. Its really up to the Ends to get up the field and cause havoc. Going back to last year our ends have been plain lousy. If Fulmer recognizes that and says help is on the way, (Walker and Martin) then I for one am glad for it. I am not a believer that all can be solved with a blitz. For all the posters here I have a question? How many times did we blitz last week and how many time did we get to the QB.

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