Stocker sees bigger role for tight ends

Kiffin: "anything to make a first down"

Returning UT player Luke Stocker greets his new coach, Lane Kiffin, just after the press conference introducing him as the Vols' head football coach.

Photo by Michael Patrick

Returning UT player Luke Stocker greets his new coach, Lane Kiffin, just after the press conference introducing him as the Vols' head football coach.

Tennessee's football practice ended with a bang Tuesday, apparently a Lane Kiffin trademark.

The Vols worked on a goal-line scenario with music blaring and voices roaring.

Both the offense and defense won a few battles but the offense got to roar when Nick Stephens found Luke Stocker in the back of the end zone with a short touchdown pass.

Everybody was glad to see No. 88 back in action after the junior tight end missed Saturday's scrimmage and Monday practice with a sprained toe.

A sprained toe doesn't sound like a major injury but try one on some time. It's a nagging, painful condition that you feel with every step.

"I had a toe sprain and a bone bruise at the same time,'' Stocker said. "It happened Thursday. I practiced through it today and did all right.''

Stocker is locked in a battle with Jeff Cottam to be UT's No. 1 tight end, although both should play plenty this season.

Stocker is excited about UT's new offense and didn't want to miss any more practice time.

"There are tons of opportunities in this offense for tight ends,'' Stocker said.

"Coach has got us running down the middle of the field a lot. It's up to us to run our butts off and get open and the ball is going to come to us.''

Stocker caught 13 passes as a sophomore. Cottam played eight games in 2008 and didn't catch a pass.

"They are different and we'd like to use 'em to the best of their abilities, to do what they do best,'' Kiffin said.

"Luke stretches the field a little more and Jeff is bigger and stockier at the point of attack. Hopefully they can stay healthy. They keep getting banged up.''

Stocker can't help but notice the tight ends are being used as passing targets more since Kiffin arrived.

"We'll see what happens when the games get here,'' Stocker said.

"I don't want to jinx the tight ends but I feel this year there's going to be a lot of opportunities come our way.''

Kiffin says that's the general idea.

"We'll use anything we can with our roster,'' he said. "Anything we can figure out to make a first down or a play.''

Big Finish: Both the players and coaching staff were animated during the practice-ending goal-line drill.

The division, of course, was along offensive and defensive lines.

"The environment really does feel like a real game out there,'' said defensive tackle Dan Williams.

"It's competition for both teams and all it can do is make us better on both sides. ... We really take the competition to heart.''

QB Update: Stephens had several nice pass completions Tuesday, two of them to sophomore tight end Ben Bartholomew.

Stephens also hit Brandon Warren with a deep ball and Gerald Jones on a medium-range sideline route.

Injury News: Center Josh McNeil was limited due to sore knees. Cody Sullins worked at center with the No. 1 offense.

Middle linebacker Herman Lathers was back in contact work for the first time in a while.

"We've got to get guys healthy,'' Kiffin said. "By the end of the day there were 18 guys on the injury report.

"We're not playing a game tomorrow. We wouldn't be practicing like this if we were. We're smart. We've been doing this a long time. We know when to pull back.''

D-Line: While the team dressed in full pads, defensive tackle Marlon Walls wore shorts, an indication he is still officially in an acclimation period since being declared eligible late last week.

Walls, however, wore thigh pads under his shorts and participated in several 11-on-11 drills.

Victor Thomas continued to get work with the No. 1 D-line as Wes Brown was used sparingly to rest his knees.

"We hope Wes can go the whole season and play every snap,'' Kiffin said. "But Wes has had a lot of injuries, very much like Josh (McNeil). Who knows how much he'll be able to play, so developing our young guys has been very key.''

Long Drive: The Vols worked on a long-drive drill Tuesday in which the same lineup stayed on the field for 10 consecutive plays to test endurance.

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Comments » 25

stayingorange writes:

We need to return the TE to the prominence of Witten days.

Even in shorts, it's great to read that Walls is finally on the field. I bet after his wait he'd play in shorts if he had to.

Couchdummy writes:

Good read on Hamilton-Fulmer-Kiffin history.

http://ncaafootball.fanhouse.com/2009...

TWhite11 writes:

Sound like there getting it done. You have to do work in the preseason if you want to compete, somtimes that means injuries, as long as there just minor and nothing serious.

davethevol writes:

in response to Couchdummy:

Good read on Hamilton-Fulmer-Kiffin history.

http://ncaafootball.fanhouse.com/2009...

That is a good article. I don't like the way Fulmer was treated at the end. I think they should have handled the firing differently.

kabzs writes:

Dang, I watched Fulmer coached teams for years. You mean a tight end is eligible? ...and you can throw a ball deep down the middle?...dang, those are unique concepts.

I heard some guy called Witten tried that, but he went off to Texas and they didn't do it anymore.

VOLinDAWGland writes:

In the 90's when TN was playing a power offense game the TE was well into the mix. Somewhere in the early 2000's and continuing with the return of Cut, the offense became more finesse and the TE was forgotten. I think there was always too many things going on with the O, pro sets, spreads, H backs, etc. We got to the point where we didn't do anything particularly well. I remember the 90's bread and butter was the 'counter trey' where we'd have a couple of hosses leading through the hole with a RB running wild and defenders scattered over the field. Under Sanders/Fulmer watch the O lost it's edge and identity and never got it back and then hit rock bottom last year.

I'm thankful for a new start and a new emphasis on physical play and a focus on doing a few things very well.

chargervol writes:

Its good knowing that they still had the music blaring. If the boys weren't working hard I think they would cut the wires. Is it football time, yet? Can't wait to get this ting started. Tee it up and kick it off. GO VOLS!!!

chargervol writes:

in response to chargervol:

Its good knowing that they still had the music blaring. If the boys weren't working hard I think they would cut the wires. Is it football time, yet? Can't wait to get this ting started. Tee it up and kick it off. GO VOLS!!!

It should be "thing" not "ting". Anywho, GO VOLS!!!

1974Vol writes:

Most all of these injuries would not keep guys out games. The staff is resting people they know can play and looking for more unproven ones who can.

MikeTheTiger writes:

This should give Stocker several more chances to drop balls in 2009.

SEC__Headgear writes:

Using more of the football team to defeat another football team makes sense.

Tight end when used effectively is a wonderful weapon. It takes a special athlete with a good head on his shoulders to play the position and we have two of them game ready!

Won't it be an amazing transformation if the team can execute plays designed to leverage talent/ability on queue.

Less predictability with less complication could be the medicine for a better season.

gnm53108 writes:

in response to MikeTheTiger:

This should give Stocker several more chances to drop balls in 2009.

MMmmmmmm...

Nah,I'll pass.

Good try though.

UTfan4life2 writes:

We have a tight end? I would have never known...

InertGas writes:

in response to stayingorange:

We need to return the TE to the prominence of Witten days.

Even in shorts, it's great to read that Walls is finally on the field. I bet after his wait he'd play in shorts if he had to.

I don't know if Tennessee has ever been prominent at TE. Whitten was pretty good but he was never quite as good while at UT as he should have been. You have to go back to the 60's and Austin Denny to fine really great play at TE. Have we ever had a consensus All-American at that position?

givehim6 writes:

Hope the 2nd and 3ed deep players will be up to game speed. Seems like every year UT has to go down the depth chart.

VolFanNC writes:

I like the comments. Hopefully we will be spreading the ball out to anyone who can catch it or run with it. Would like ot see the TE's and FB's a little more involved in the passing game than in recent years...If only Mose Phillips was still around...

gnm53108 writes:

in response to VolFanNC:

I like the comments. Hopefully we will be spreading the ball out to anyone who can catch it or run with it. Would like ot see the TE's and FB's a little more involved in the passing game than in recent years...If only Mose Phillips was still around...

My GOD I miss Mose.

I'd give my left lugnut for another Mose Phillips.

DenverVol writes:

Seems to me that Stocker saw plenty of action last year and dropped as many as he caught. Am I making this up? I have tried to block much of last season out of my mine.

On another note, doesn't it seem like KNS keeps pumping up Stephens and knocking Crompton down every chance they get? I know there are a lot of Crompton haters on here, but personally, I'm happy with either QB as long as they protect the ball as if it were their first born. Isn't there another article on here about Stephens throwing a couple of picks yesterday? Didn't see that in the above article.

kabzs writes:

Having a tight end as a true threat forces a linebacker to cover him. That opens the underneath to a back, or a slot guy in the open field.

Stocker deep: nuke underneath in the open field, "run number 7, run"...

KINGKONG writes:

MAN I REMEMBER HOW EXPLOSIVE UT OFFFENSE WAS WITH JASON WITTEN WITH A GOOD TE IT HARD TO BLITZ. LB AND DB GOT TO RESPECT THE MIDDLE OF FEILD IT OPENS UP THE SIDE LINE FOR OPEN RECEIVERS AND BACKS OUT THE BACK FEILD.IT WILL BE HARD 2 PLAY 2 DEEP COVERAGE.FOR EXAMPLE DO U REMEMBER JASON WITTEN GAME WINNING CATCH OVER THE MIDDLE AGANIST ARKANSAS IN DOUBLE OVERTIME WHAT A THRILLER

off_the_porch writes:

Thanks for the link(s) on the Fulmer firing. I don't really know how I feel on Fulmer getting fired. IMO, he lost the fire was no longer in his belly for it. As well, there was loyality which got in the way of the better players playing.

BTW - KINGKONG. Try using that key, located to the left of the 'A' key.

volfan7 writes:

I always like to see the big tall tight ends catching the short pass up the middle instead of just blocking all the time. It seemed such a waste to see the big guys throwing themselves at someone when they could at least occasionally catch a few passes, just for the surprise factor. Fulmer talked about using the tight end as a receiver but he did not always follow through.

volfan7 writes:

in response to DenverVol:

Seems to me that Stocker saw plenty of action last year and dropped as many as he caught. Am I making this up? I have tried to block much of last season out of my mine.

On another note, doesn't it seem like KNS keeps pumping up Stephens and knocking Crompton down every chance they get? I know there are a lot of Crompton haters on here, but personally, I'm happy with either QB as long as they protect the ball as if it were their first born. Isn't there another article on here about Stephens throwing a couple of picks yesterday? Didn't see that in the above article.

I would recommend the two quarterback system, with Crompton and Stephens alternating about every fifth play or so. Spurrier used it effectively for a few seasons, as I recall. If both QB's are a bust, I see no other alternative.

DannyVol writes:

in response to Couchdummy:

Good read on Hamilton-Fulmer-Kiffin history.

http://ncaafootball.fanhouse.com/2009...

Thanks for posting this. Sadly, it seems to justify the change in direction.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to gnm53108:

My GOD I miss Mose.

I'd give my left lugnut for another Mose Phillips.

Ain't that the truth! I will never forget a TD run he had at South Carolina where it seemed he shrugged off a tackle from every defender on the field! He wasn't all that fast, but he nearly always seemed to get where he was headed to, scattering bodies the whole way!

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