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Tennessee Stat Book
Northern Illinois Huskies
Four games into the season, there are more questions about Tennessee's offense than who should be the quarterback.
One of them is: Where's Brandon Warren?
The popular Alcoa product who transferred from Florida State was expected to be an integral part of the offense when the NCAA cleared him to participate this season.
Considering his year-and-a-half layoff from football, maybe that was expecting too much, too soon. So far, UT fans have seen only glimpses of the Freshman All-America form Warren showed at tight end for FSU in 2006.
He's caught five passes, including one in each of UT's first three games. His 42-yard reception against UAB is Tennessee's second-longest pass play of the season.
In UT's 14-12 loss at Auburn last Saturday, however, Warren was shut out and scarcely played - six snaps, according to tight ends coach Jason Michael.
"I think things will come,'' Michael said. "He wasn't as involved last week as we would have liked or as he would have liked.''
Warren admitted Wednesday he was frustrated at Auburn, but he continues to put a team-first face on it.
"You look forward to playing in big games like that,'' he said. "I'm in there on certain packages. We really didn't get a chance to get into those things.''
UT coach Phillip Fulmer said Warren is still catching up after spending the 2007 season away from football. The hiatus between FSU and Tennessee also included spring practice in 2008.
Michael, Fulmer and even Warren point to getting the 6-foot-1, 225-pound sophomore back up to speed.
"He's got to get his assignments and techniques,'' Fulmer said. "Inexperience, that's all it is.
"Let him do things naturally and he's going to be fine. He's certainly talented.''
Doing things naturally comes when you don't have to over-think assignments.
"When you're out there you've got to be decisive,'' Warren said. "If you're iffy about something, you're not going to play as fast. I'm feeling myself catching up more and more. I'm ready to help.''
Michael wants Warren to be able to help in the run game as well. If he's merely a passing target, it tips UT's hand to opposing defenses.
Luke Stocker is the starter when the Vols are in a one-tight-end set.
"Luke tries to play physical every single play,'' Michael said. "When you do that, more often than not things are going to work out for you.''
Warren has also played on special teams, returning two bloop kickoffs for a 17-yard average. At Auburn, however, he wasn't on that unit, either.
"That's not really been my cup of tea,'' Warren said. "I'm new to special teams at this level.''
Again, Fulmer said Warren had been hesitant and special teams are an area that emphasize aggressiveness.
"He's back on it now,'' Fulmer said. "If he's going to be here and be a good athlete, we need to get him on everything we can.''
Foremost, that includes getting him the ball as a tight end.
Jonathan Crompton's struggles at quarterback have affected every aspect of the passing game, especially second and third options on a given pass play.
But part of the scenario is defining what Warren does best as the Vols continue to assimilate a new system under first-year offensive coordinator Dave Clawson.
"Brandon's done a little bit of a bunch of things,'' Michael said, "and now we're trying to home in.
"Brandon's an explosive guy, a very athletic guy. You like him with the ball in his hands.''
That sounds good to Warren.
"I'm a competitor and I want to be out there to help the team,'' he said. "I just do what they tell me to do.
"I'm sure they'll find the best situation to put me in to give me the opportunity to play.''