Zach Fulton, a 6-5, 315-pound freshman from Homewood, Ill., started at right guard last Saturday vs. Alabama and performed so well that he appears likely to start again this weekend at South Carolina.
"Zach Fulton played a phenomenal football game," head coach Derek Dooley said today. "He was one of our Players of the Week on offense, along with (tailback Tauren) Poole. He really went out there and competed against some great football players, went toe-to-toe with 'em."
Fulton is the third true freshman to start in Tennessee's O-line this season. Ja'Wuan James (Suwanee, Ga.) has started all seven games at right tackle. James Stone (Nashville) started Games 4, 5 and 6 at left guard.
There has been considerable shuffling of Tennessee's offensive front in recent weeks, and that likely will continue this week. Redshirt freshman JerQuari Schofield, who started the first three games at left guard before missing four games due to injury, is expected to return to action this weekend.
"We'll probably let him integrate back in with (Jarrod) Shaw at left guard," Dooley said, "which will bring us back to where we were in the beginning - working Stone in at center."
Stone has gotten brief looks at center throughout the fall. Apparently, he will spend this week challenging sophomore Darin Gooch for the first-team job in the middle of the line.
It's conceivable that Tennessee's starting line vs. South Carolina will consist of sophomore Dallas Thomas at left tackle, redshirt freshman Schofield at left guard, freshman Stone at center, freshman Fulton at right guard and freshman James at right tackle.
That's a lot of rookies to play at once but Dooley said the young linemen have been "playing real well," subsequently adding: "I think those guys in time are going to be good football players."
In addition to the return of Schofield, here's the rest of the injury report:
- First-team cornerback Marsalis Teague is questionable due to a toe injury. Dooley said he is "a little concerned" because a corner's success depends so heavily on the ability to start, stop and change direction quickly.
Asked who would take Teague's spot in the secondary rotation if he's unable to play, Dooley replied: "We've talked about a lot of things but I don't think we really have an answer right now. We might have to (play) a safety over at corner some.... It's going to be a tricky puzzle."
- Kicker Daniel Lincoln, who made his first seven field goals this fall but hasn't played since Game 3, may or may not see action vs. South Carolina.
"I don't know," Dooley said. "We'll find out later in the week."
- Cornerback Nyshier Oliver, who tore an ACL in the Orange & White Game last spring, is scheduled to return to full-speed practice this week but is not expected to play this weekend.
"I don't think there's any chance he'll play in the game, from what Jason (trainer McVeigh) is telling me," Dooley said. "There's a chance he'll play the next week (Nov. 6 at Memphis). We'll get him out there in practice and see."