Mo Couch is Vols' third defensive lineman to get dinged

Tennessee Offensive linemen Marcus Jackson, left, and Alex Bullard warm up during morning practice at Haslam Field on Saturday, August 10, 2013. 
  
 (SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Saul Young

Tennessee Offensive linemen Marcus Jackson, left, and Alex Bullard warm up during morning practice at Haslam Field on Saturday, August 10, 2013. (SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL)

Three weeks before opening night, Tennessee’s defensive line depth is getting tested.

Senior defensive tackle Mo Couch is out due to a calf muscle strain in his right leg, the third Vol defensive lineman bitten by the injury bug.

The Vols already know ends Jacques Smith (wrist) and Corey Vereen (knee) probably won’t be available for the Aug. 31 opener against Austin Peay and possibly beyond.

Couch, one of the Vols’ more experienced tackles, is listed day to day, according to head coach Butch Jones. Couch, in fact, appeared to make progress from Saturday morning’s practice, when he was on crutches, to the evening scrimmage, when he was off crutches and walking fairly easily in a protective boot.

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Senior linebacker Channing Fugate was away from the team Saturday. Jones said the Jackson, Ky., product is pondering whether or not to play this season for the Vols. A transfer to a lower-division school is a possibility.

Fugate has played in 37 career games. His six career starts came early, at fullback. He recorded 18 tackles last season, his first at linebacker.

He wasn’t listed on the two-deep depth chart at the start of camp.

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Jones praised the quarterback play in the evening scrimmage, saying he was pleased with all four: Justin Worley, Nathan Peterman, Joshua Dobbs and Riley Ferguson.

“They’re coaching each other and taking advantage of their reps,’’ Jones said.

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The second-team offensive line paved the way for an impressive length-of-the-field drive — all on the ground — against the second-team defense. Jones singled out true freshman Dylan Wiesman, saying, “He’s playing his way into the rotation.’’

One of the backs involved in that time-crunching drive was all-but-forgotten sophomore Tom Smith, who redshirted last fall.

“Tom Smith really showed up today,’’ said center James Stone. “He stayed in the game, getting hit run after run. I really applaud him for that.’’

Alden Hill and Justus Pickett also shared carries in the drive.

“It was 13 plays, all runs, 98 yards,’’ said starting tailback Rajion Neal, who was a sideline cheerleader during the drive. “That sent the whole scrimmage to a different level. They were coming downhill with it.’’

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The Aug. 31 opener against Austin Peay will be televised at 6 p.m. on a pay-per-view basis, UT confirmed Saturday. Cable subscribers will use VideoSeat to purchase the game. Subscribers to Dish Network, DirecTV and AT&T U-verse may also purchase the game.

Mike Keith and Pat Ryan will handle the call. Outside the state of Tennessee, the game will be available on ESPN’s GamePlan and ESPN3.

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Alton “Pig” Howard might have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed Saturday morning. It was not his finest practice.

Early on, Howard dropped a medium-range pass from Worley, which earned a private audience with Jones. Later, in a hurry-up, goal-line drill, Howard dropped a pass in the end zone. “Dropped passes cost games,’’ Jones announced in his microphone.

Shortly, Howard was chastised by Jones for calling for a fair catch with the No. 2 punt-return unit.

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Senior linebacker Greg King has battled injuries throughout his career. He’s getting heavy use on a variety of special teams. One of his duties is being the back-line protection for the punter, along with 291-pound Trevarris Saulsberry and 265-pound Corey Miller.

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Oops. Freshman defensive back Cameron Sutton was singled out for “blocking the wrong guy” in a punt-coverage drill Saturday morning.

Said Jones: “102,000 just went ‘uhhhh.’ You just made SportsCenter.’’

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Comments » 17

mikethehistorystudent writes:

"You just made sports center." Great comment and good perspective for these kids.

richvol writes:

When you gonna show up Pig?

SavTnVol writes:

"Early on, Howard dropped a medium-range pass from Worley, which earned a private audience with Jones." Somehow, I just can't believe that a private audience with CBJ is quite the same as one with the previous coach. What you think DaRick?

Sunshine27 writes:

The info on C Fugate and comments on Pig just goes to show UT has not recruited well. I've never felt Pig is a D1 receiver. Fugate has never really showed up on the map.
I love how Butch calls these guys out, almost embarrassing them...they have to realize that being mediocre is not acceptable at UT. The players need to start preparing now! Not game day morning. Every practice is vital.

johnlg00 writes:

I just hope the program is being overly cautious when they keep guys out of practice or project how long they will be on the shelf. I surely have no problem with coaches insisting on correct execution and effort on every play, even if they aren't getting it every time. I'm sure every team in America has injury concerns and execution glitches in the preseason, but I really hope these are ABERRATIONS for the Vols and not a "new normal".

johnlg00 writes:

BTW, that picture of Bullard at the top of the article doesn't say much for the conditioning program at first glance. At second glance, that bulge around the middle looks like the loose skin people get when they have a steep, rapid weight loss. I hope Bullard has lost weight and gotten quicker, but I would be concerned if he really did lose a LOT of weight FAST.

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

As long as I've been watching college football, for those guys who've tipped the scales over 300 pounds or so, there have been very, very few of them built like a tight end or wide receiver etc.

This also applies to the teams Tennessee has played as well. Most of those both offensive and defensive linemen come across as being a bit pudgy. If they block and can tackle as well, we can probably cut them a little slack.

But ideally, we want them to look like body builders who can perform as well.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Vols,

As long as I've been watching college football, for those guys who've tipped the scales over 300 pounds or so, there have been very, very few of them built like a tight end or wide receiver etc.

This also applies to the teams Tennessee has played as well. Most of those both offensive and defensive linemen come across as being a bit pudgy. If they block and can tackle as well, we can probably cut them a little slack.

But ideally, we want them to look like body builders who can perform as well.

That was meant pretty much tongue-in-cheek. There are guys who are surprisingly athletic despite a bit of a belly. Charles Barkley is surely such a one; as a freshman at Auburn, Barkley went about 6'4" and 280, yet was one of the most explosive leapers of his generation. I have encountered such people even at the vastly lower levels of ball I played. If Bullard's weight and condition aren't problems for him and the coaching staff, they are fine with me. As you suggested, it doesn't matter how a guy LOOKS as long as he can play.

Show-me-your-TDs writes:

Sounds like coach put are younger running backs to work....l hope he liked what he saw

Sounds to me that are tackling still needs some improvement ...thumbs up to Tom Smith

GO VOLS!!!

CoverOrange writes:

Reading the line about Fugate, the thought occurred to me to move him back to FB. The next thought occurred wondering do we even have a FB position in this offense?

oldster writes:

If it weren't for bad luck, the Vols would have no luck at all.

oldster writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Reading the line about Fugate, the thought occurred to me to move him back to FB. The next thought occurred wondering do we even have a FB position in this offense?

How many white running backs or not-primarily-a-blocking-fullback (which is what Fugate was or would have been) you know of in the SEC in the last 50 years?

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to oldster:

How many white running backs or not-primarily-a-blocking-fullback (which is what Fugate was or would have been) you know of in the SEC in the last 50 years?

The Crossville Comet comes to mind.

oldster writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

The Crossville Comet comes to mind.

How many years ago was he? 45 or so? See my point?

tovolny writes:

I know Channing Fugate's grandparents, so I have always wanted him to excel. He has speed (I know that surprises some), size, and intelligence. I know he works hard. Seems to me, he should fit right in as a fullback. However, with two different coaching staff observing him, I don't see how they could just be overlooking him. My personal opinion is: given a chance, I think he can do very well.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to tovolny:

I know Channing Fugate's grandparents, so I have always wanted him to excel. He has speed (I know that surprises some), size, and intelligence. I know he works hard. Seems to me, he should fit right in as a fullback. However, with two different coaching staff observing him, I don't see how they could just be overlooking him. My personal opinion is: given a chance, I think he can do very well.

I have seen several posters comment on Fugate's potential. It seems a shame that he and this staff don't seem to be on the same page. Without knowing any more about it than I do, I would hesitate to cast blame. Sometimes things just don't work out to everyone's immediate benefit.

WaItGoVols writes:

I hope Mo Couch gets Mo better.

Walt

UT '81

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