The opportunity arrived, and there was nothing James Stone could change about the way it showed up.
Given an option, the Tennessee right guard surely would have selected a different method instead of an injury to a teammate, particularly one as close to him as Zach Fulton.
But all Stone could do with his buddy on the shelf with a stress fracture in his foot was slide into his spot and make the most of Fulton's absence. And no matter how good of friends they might be, Stone has no plans to simply concede the starting job he's held throughout spring football camp as the Vols head into their second scrimmage today at Neyland Stadium.
"You always hate an injury, especially for one of our guys who have been with us and that we all came in with together," Stone said after practice on Friday. "But you have to make the most of whatever you get.
"Whatever reps I get, I have to make them count regardless of where he's at."
For the first half of camp, that was on the sideline and mostly riding an exercise bike as Fulton recovered from the injury he suffered running sprints during offseason workouts.
Now the junior who started every game at right guard a year ago is right behind Stone on the unofficial depth chart, battling to earn back his spot in the lineup and in some cases already chipping away at the first-team reps as Fulton rotates back into the mix and knocks off a bit of rust.
And while Stone expressed no concerns about sharing time at guard as the Vols sort through a deeper pool of candidates for playing time on the offensive line, neither he nor the coaching staff are going to allow Fulton to just reclaim his spot without a battle.
"I think it was important after the season that really nobody earned the right to their job," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "I mean, if you make all-conference, OK, I get it. But when you don't have the season the way we wanted to have it, we didn't have a lot of great production up front so they were starters by default.
"It was just all under the guise of promoting competition, and Zach is playing well but James is, too. If James hadn't been playing well, Zach might have moved up in that one spot. But we've got about eight guys up front right now playing really well, and it's helped, it's good, it's healthy."
The competition got even stronger when Fulton received his clean bill of health earlier in the week, setting him up for a scrimmage debut this afternoon. Even without him, though, the Vols were able to demonstrate some progress with their beleaguered rushing attack, helping Rajion Neal pile up 100 yards and opening holes for Devrin Young as well on the way to 60 more.
But that certainly doesn't mean Fulton hasn't been welcomed back with open arms by the Vols — including the one who now has to hold him off in a fight for playing time.
"We know each other so well, it's more of a friendly competition as opposed to it being somebody I don't know," Stone said. "It's not really different because we've all been battling for positions since we all got here.
"We just kind of rotate, alternate, share reps and each try to do as good as we can on every rep we get."
There's more sharing for Stone to do now. But that just means his friend is healthy again, and that obviously beats the alternative.
Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. Follow him at http://
twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward.