Coming soon: 'Twos-Get-Better Day' for Vols

When Tennessee resumes spring practice Tuesday, the Vols will have another holiday on the horizon.

Don't worry, though. Banks will still be open. The mailman will still come at the appointed hour.

UT coach Phillip Fulmer has the calendar circled for his old standby of a holiday.

"In the next few weeks we'll have - I always kid about this - but it's a 'National Twos-Get-Better Day," Fulmer said, noting that UT will use a day to give reserves about 90 percent of practice reps. "We'll get that happening for us with the twos and threes."

Once UT dons full pads Tuesday for the first time this spring, the search for depth begins in earnest.

Nowhere is that depth more necessary than on the defensive line.

The Vols need players like Walter Fisher, Chase Nelson and Victor Thomas to elevate their games behind starting defensive tackles Demonte' Bolden and Dan Williams.

At end, Wes Brown, Chris Walker, Ben Martin and Robert Ayers must find a way to replace starters Xavier Mitchell and Antonio Reynolds.

"I don't know that they fully understand it, but that's my responsibility to make sure that they will," defensive coordinator John Chavis said of his defensive line finding some key reserves this spring. "I can assure you that before spring practice they will."

Even offensive line coach Greg Adkins, who returns five starters and a key reserve from last year, wants to find more players who can contribute.

Along with individual versatility, Tennessee was able to overcome an injury to starting left tackle Eric Young because of superior depth.

That means Adkins will have his eye on the next group of super subs up front.

"What we've got to be able to do is get the Ramone Johnsons, the Jarrod Shaws, the William Brimfields, the Cody Popes to where we can count on them," Adkins said. "Ramone showed that some last year. Cody Sullins, I don't want to take anything away from him. He's going to be working with the second group at center. He's a tough guy.

"Those are the guys that have truly got to be guys we can count on. Sort of like (starting left tackle) Chris Scott going into last year really hadn't played all that much, took a huge step. If I can get three or four of those guys to do that, then depth will be good. If not, then we'll be a little limited. I'll be honest."

Regardless of position, Fulmer wants to see those second- and third-teamers make positive steps in the coming weeks.

"There's a good many of those young guys that we need to come on to close that gap, to play in games or maybe even push themselves into a competitive starting position," Fulmer said. "We'll find out a lot more of that when we get back to pads."

Luxurious Backfield: New offensive coordinator Dave Clawson counts himself among the lucky after inheriting a 1,000-yard tailback.

Senior-to-be Arian Foster returns after leading the Vols with 1,193 yards and 12 touchdowns last year.

But that's not all that Clawson likes about UT's backfield.

"It's a luxury anytime you inherit a guy that's played as much as (Foster) has," Clawson said. "I think the exciting thing about our running back position is we do have quality depth there. These guys are going to have a chance to compete, and we'll see what they can do."

Montario Hardesty returns for his junior season after averaging 4.2 yards on 89 carries, as does rising sophomore Lennon Creer, who averaged an impressive 5.6 yards per carry last year.

Tauren Poole is physically mature for a freshman and could also factor in the mix.

Clawson said he would like to have primarily a two-tailback rotation that utilizes runners with complementary styles.

"We'll use the best ones," Clawson said. "I'm not a big fan of rotating four or five guys in there. I think you need to have a lead back and you need to have a complementary back that maybe gives you a little bit of a change-up. We like to have a 1-A and a 1-B."

Wise Words: Quarterback Jonathan Crompton showed he knows one of the most important parts of being a quarterback: Give plenty of props to your offensive line.

Crompton praised UT's front five, calling them the best line in the nation.

"The whole thing starts and ends with them," Crompton said. "If they do their job, everybody else can do their job. If they don't, we can't. They don't get enough credit, in my opinion. Going down the line from left tackle to right tackle, we have in my opinion the best offensive line in the country. I'll put them up against anybody."

Last year, UT's line allowed an NCAA-low four sacks in 14 games.

Schedule: Tennessee returns to campus for a team meeting at 9 tonight, followed by a conditioning session Monday.

The Vols return to practice Tuesday, their first day in full pads.

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

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Comments » 31

stroker writes:

Good readin.

nastyman writes:

Does anyone remember the game a couple of seasons ago when Ainge started acting like a douche and trying to second-guess Crompton when he was in the game? There was some obvious tension between those two.

I have no doubt in my mind that Crompton will do a much better job than Ainge because he has had to actually work the job. Plus Crompton's mobility and toughness will pay dividends. It's high time we got a QB in the game like Crompton who doesn't have such an ego and fragile psyche.

Predictions of TN future:

1. Mark Packer still sucks
2. John Adams is just doing his job. He's not the best editor, nor is he the worst.
3. TN will get beat by Butler. (Sorry guys)
4. Next season UT football will have a running game revival.
5. Bruce Pearl will make $2 million dollars next year.

UTByrd writes:

I believe this offense is going to click. Definitely like the 2 back rotation and there's no doubt about how important the O-line is.
A high octane offense and soon to be great secondary will be the best medicine for our D-line. We should have a very nice year(hope so).
Go Vols!!!!!

Orangebrewbasher writes:

I'm going to go ahead and make the prediction that the o-line will give up more than 4 sacks this season because crompton has more toughness than ainge and he will hang in the pocket and take a hit while delivering the ball, which I will take over ainges attitude anyday because that will give our receivers more time to get open. Im tired of the five yard passes.

GerryOP writes:

The day he was introduced, Clawson made the statement that was all I needed to hear -- design the offense around the talent available. That's good news.

Also, really anxious to see what Crompton can do. I think we have had enough of the calm, cool, laid back West Coast kids. Time to see a little hot-blooded emotion.

Now, about the d-line??????

DenmarkVol_aka_Mbumburu writes:

Forever, I'm with you. We have a totally different mindset on the offense, based on what I'm reading. I can't see us being limited to three-step drops for a five-yard prayer. Crompton won't be limited by the pocket, I don't think.

I hope, hope, hope Clawson will green-light him to scramble and make things happen. I'll trade a few sacks and interceptions for more improvised TDs and first downs.

philfan writes:

DenmarkVol,

Scrambling and making things happen is fine as long as you are lucky. But when the quarterback is injured and is out the entire season,things will go downhill fast. I am all for play that is exciting but want to win a lot of games too. You cannot win games without a QB. I expect Tebow to take a very bad hit next year, with the recklessness of the spread offense that Florida plays all the time. Tennessee would be better off with more conservative play by the QB. That means plenty of protection by the offensive line and little scrambling by the QB.

richvol writes:

A great deal of the time the losses we have experienced, in the last several years, were due to giving up 3rd and long plays. Time and again a collective groan would go up from the stands when an opponent would convert. It actually has gotten to the point where many fans would rather face 3rd and one than 3rd and long. How ridiculous is that?

There should be no excuse this year for allowing that to happen. Look at the depth and talent we have there... the secondary should be the strength of this team. If this pattern develops again this fall then it's obvious the problem is in the way they are being taught.

I hope coach Fulmer addresses this early and often. I,for one,am sick of it.

eb502us#225637 writes:

Am I the only one tired of hearing about how good we were at not allowing sacks last season? This is the most overblown stat I've ever seen, especially given how Ainge would chuck the ball out of bounds at the slightest sound of a footstep. I'm the most pumped about this season just for the fact that Cutcliffe and Ainge are gone. These were two (nice) guys who were way in over their head and couldn't call or execute a play in crunch time if their life depended upon it. Maybe that's why they got along so well.

VOLinDAWGland writes:

Sacks are a function of the protection unit and the QB. It's actually a good thing to avoid a sack and live for the next play. Occasionally you might give up a chance for a bigger play by dumping short or throwing the ball away, but usually the best percentage is take the underneath if that's what's available or simply throw it away. I won't be surprised if the same people criticizing the sack avoidance will be criticizing Crompton (assuming he's the starter) for holding the ball too long and taking drive killing sacks and/or forcing the ball into deep coverage into a waiting safeties hands. Ainge's numbers and game management were mostly very sound, it would have helped if he had had a legit long ball threat (not the receiver, but his arm), but what he accomplished without it and everyone knowing he didn't have it last year was pretty amazing. What I like about the West Coast offensive style is the amount of crossing routes and drag routes filling empty zones and quick hit slants that have the potential to go big. Those types of routes is what seems to be missing from Cut's offense. Jerry Rice didn't make his numbers by going long, he usually got an inside advantage on the dback and took a short to medium throw a long way after the catch. Eventually when the dback had to adjust by playing tight and inside is when Rice would break it out and up for the long ball. Rice was no burner, just a disciplined route runner and strong. We have the receivers to make this work. I'm jacked up!!!!

givehim6 writes:

I'm glad to here the back-up guy's are gitting some practice time in because, seems like every year one or two of are starters are loused due to an injury. Just think if we loused a Crompton, Foster, or #14. We need to have are back-up's ready to go.

TommyJack writes:

what givehim6 said.

MrKiffin writes:

I think we are over reacting to this whole Cutcliffe and Angie dink and dunk system. How quickly do we forget that Angie was damaged goods (broken pinky finger) and David is a really good coach who made due with what he had.. If anything, we should have been upset that Angie wasn't benched for the season, but that call was for the head coach to make, not Cutcliffe. I think that we will allow more sacks this year, but it will be overshadowed by the number of big plays we will make. Due to an upgrade at the QB position who is not afraid!!! Go Vols I cant wait until the opening Kick!!

Go J. Crompton show them, you are who I thought you were!!!!!

dvol writes:

Sure hope Clawson has the freedom to run rhe offense. If he does it could be a good year. If not Phil may be fighting for his job again. Tough Schedule with Ucla, Fl. Aub. Ga. Ala.

hueypilot writes:

Think you have a valid point fritter. Cutcliffe is not an idiot. But Ainge was totally run averse. Even Casey could leg out a first down every now and then, and was the all time best at giving the limp leg and slowing up just so the defender could pop him just out of bounds, giving us an extra 15. Casey would go to the ground like he was DOA and as soon as the laundry hit the grass, he'd jump up. Every now and then the defense totally loses contain and the QB can steal a first down. Ainge was never going to do that.

VOLinDAWGland writes:

I think you're right Fritter, also think Cut was protecting Ainge who seemed a bit physically fragile. He needs to play at about 230-240 since he ain't goin' to be quick anyways. Hit the bench and squat rack and eat lots of protein and he might just make a servicable back-up in the pros. He's tall, intelligent and reasonably accurate with a fairly quick release...those tools will play in the NFL.

gohawks1 writes:

foreverorange and eb502us - You're right on about the sacks stat. It's hard to get to a QB whose passing arm is going forward while he is still pulling away from the center.

philfan - you have a valid concern about scrambling QBs getting injured, but I don't expect JC to be a primary ball carrier like Tebow. It's just nice to know that if everyone is covered downfield, you have a capable QB who can take it downfield for good yardage when the D is spread out.

invisiblekid writes:

Tend to agree with the comments that the sack total last year was a little over-rated. While impressive, it was as much a product of a system and Cutcliffe trying to protect Ainge from further injury as anything IMO. The thing that concerned me about the offensive line last year was Cutcliffe's reluctance to put the game in their hands in crucial 3rd and short situations or trying to shorten the game with a lead in the second half. They got better later in the year when Richard and McClendon started getting more playing time. However, a 73rd ranked rushing offense last year is a number that needs to be improved with our stable of RB's. Said it more than once though, our major problems weren't on the offensive side of the ball the last couple of years.

VOLinDAWGland writes:

Not gutting out some key 3rd and shorts last year really exposed a vulnerable defense. If the O converts a few of those some of those close games or blowouts would have turned out much differently. I hope to see a more physical bunch this year. Keep the D off the field and the D's numbers will improve a bunch.

johnnyjackson#206090 writes:

I'm looking forward to the spring game to see this new offense. I'm wondering if we will see much. Can't help but think it will be hard for the offense to be productive. Should be interesting.

Also, I'm on a John Adams boycott. Haven't read, and don't intend to ever read his stuff again, since his attack in Phil.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

No way Crompton will be better than Ainge. Crompton is basically a JP Wilson type, with less accuracy.

That being said, the offense may rally around a wekaker QB much as they did when Darryl Dickey took over from Tony Robinson way back when.

When UT's offense failed last season, it was mostly Cut's play-calling and CPF's lack of balls in certain situations

(see next post)

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

those of you who bother to read my drivel know I'm not a CPF basher.

Howsomever, I think ONE game from last year needs to used by Phil and by Hamilton in measuring the coaches:
ALABAMA;

my rant: any dolt of a UT fan (**I majored in mechanical dolt-hood way back wneh) could see JP Wilson and DJ Hall were 'ON' and that UT needed to control the ball. UT's defense was overmatched.

But, what did CPF do?? Freakin' PUNTED on 4th and short TWICE. That told UT's offense 'we have no faith in yoi' and told Bama 'we are scared of you'.

Damn game was gone after that.

My point??? Phil dang well do a better job of 'reading' the game. For all the criticism of Les Miles, the man can DEFINTIELY read a game and knows when to take a risk and when to back off.

If CPF has a fault, IMHO, it is that he plays 'not to lose' instead of 'playing to win'.

To true Vol fans, I say this: get off Phil about character, team rules, all that shlt. It's happening all over America, it is the character of kids. It even happens in staid old Iowa.

That being said, I do belive it is fine to hold his feet to the fire about game-planning and personnel. We pay the guy millions per year to keep his head out of his butt ant to move the program forward.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

I gotta add one more thing: made sick all the phooey about UGA late last season.

Stafford is average at best. Moreno?? That guy is VERY good. But overall?? UGA was NOT better than UT at the end of the season.

My prediction: UGA will start out being highly-rated, then will tumble as they get whacked a couple of times in sEC play.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

2008 teams to watch out for:

1) Ohio State -- unlike 2 years ago, OSU played well against LSU. They have even more talent, and will be 'after it' again. Sad to say for them, they may get left out of any BCS picture as voters think 'enohgh is enough'
2) Michigan -- Loads of talent, new coach with and axe to grind.
3) Bama -- Saban had a good recruiting year, plus now has a year under his belt with the team. The worst thing for Bama is the Bama fanbase.
4) Auburn -- Tuberville has that way of getting things done.

Best recovery:
Houston Nutt at Ole Miss: Lots of talent in Mississippi that goes elsewhere. Nutt's a little odd, but a great recruiter. He'll have Ole Miss competing...

Give him 2 years: Petrino at Arkansas. Perfect setting for Petrino.

Down the tubes: Miss State; Sylvester is okay, but MSU's offense sucks. He needs a topflight offensive coordinator.

hueypilot writes:

Couldn't agree more Mparker. There was nothing that happened in that game that made Phil think we could stop Alabama. Wilson and Hall were in a zone and by kicking to them on 4th and short at midfield I felt Phil was giving up and no matter what I'd never seen him do that. I thought Miles was an idiot, and in fact, so did many LSU fans I talked to in Atlanta last December, but he has the guts of a riverboat gambler and he has made his gammbles pay off.
Regarding schedules next year Georgia has us, Florida, LSU, Auburn next year. The conference is a meat grinder, but is proving to be the best test in college football. We should secede from the NCAA and after we crown a champion at the end of the year ask the rest of the country, "Okay, who ya got that wants to play us for the title.?" Pretty arrogant, but I think it's proven true the last couple of years anyway.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

You know what is odd about this article?? with eight hundred coaches on staff, you'd think you could workd the 2's and 3's all by themselves, and all the time.

I've never understood coaches in any aport having coaches AND players standing around watching someone else work.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

You know what is odd about this article?? with eight hundred coaches on staff, you'd think you could workd the 2's and 3's all by themselves, and all the time.

I've never understood coaches in any aport having coaches AND players standing around watching someone else work.

croweman writes:

Guys this may or may not be of any comfort at all to any of you. I seen JC play the North/South Shrine Bowl Game and he did a good job. I went to see him and Tony (that went to NCSU) play and to tell you the truth I wanted to see JC play at UT from day 1. The man has a good arm and he will take and give a lick which can and will gain respect with any OL in the SEC. I think we will see a better overall team this year at UT.

cdldoc#211897 writes:

foreverorange, you are right, my friend!

GoVol writes:

outside looking in, this whole 2's thing doesn't make much sense to me. How do you properly evaluate the 2's when they are up only against the other 2's?

The so-called 2's should be worked into the mix against he expected starters so they can thoroughly be evaluated.

Also, everyone knows that when you play against stronger competition you get better (meaning the 2's will improve by playing up against the starters).

The problem still seems to be somewhat the same with Fulmer. For the most part it still appears Fulmer doesn't accurately access talent based strictly upon talent, but more-so based upon the number of years on the team. In other words, if you are a senior your chances of playing with Fulmer is greater than that of a more talented player that is a Soph. or Junior. Fulmer rewards seniority and not talent....in most cases (Eric Berry is he perfect example of this not being true and the reason why I specifically state...in most cases).

Example - there is no way Ryan Karl should have been the starting strong side linebacker last year. On the strong side you have to cover the pass more often and Karl was way too slow to do this. He was beat so many times last year on passing routes I'd need a calculater to add them.

VOLinDAWGland writes:

I read this as this was an opportunity to get the 2's some extra work and extra coaching attention. I'm sure the 2's get into the mix with the 1's in a lot of practice situations. Keep in mind that the 2's should expect to see significant playing time as part of regular rotation and fill in for injury. There's a lot that can be evaluated even without going against the 1's. Things like executing assignments, number of fundemental and assignment mistakes, quickness and athletic ability, instincts, etc.

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