Tuesday Scrimmage Report

Jason Allen

KNOXVILLE - The Vols completed their fourth scrimmage of the pre-season on Tuesday afternoon inside Neyland Stadium. The scrimmage didn't allow for much hard hitting. However, head coach Phillip Fulmer saw some things he needed to see from his team.

"We accomplished what we needed to accomplish," Fulmer said. "That was to get the quarterbacks operating in game type situations with nobody getting hurt."

The game-like atmosphere made for a few more mistakes from Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer, the two true freshmen. Despite the occasional miscue, Fulmer still believes the duo is as advanced at this stage of the game as he has seen.

"I think they've got to do a lot better job of taking care of the football," Fulmer said. "They threw the ball into a crowd twice. They threw it late to the outside once or twice. That sort of thing can't happen." "I told the officials to run the time clock really quickly to make them be pressed a little bit more. We've got to get the signal in a little quicker. They're still ahead of most freshmen that I've been around. They've got a lot to learn, but these situations are the only way they're going to learn."

As for the secondary, Jonathan Wade began the scrimmage in mid-season form. With Roshaun Fellows out of action, Wade got the start at cornerback and returned an interception for touchdown. However, Fulmer is still leery of some tackling issues.

"I was glad to see us get our hands on some balls today," Fulmer said. "We've still got work to do. There were a couple of runs that, playing like we were today, you don‚t know if the run would have broke or if the safeties would have gotten in there and made a play."

Jason Allen keeps receiving rave reviews wherever he is spotted on the field of play. He is easily the Vols best player in the secondary. He started at cornerback on Tuesday. Yet, with his size, speed, and athletic ability, he could easily see some time at safety, too.

"You‚d like for him to be back there at safety," Fulmer said. "He can help you direct traffic and do some of those things. Yet, he's your best cover corner and a guy that you can say, 'You've got this receiver' and just not worry about for the day. He has been a leader."

Another player who has seen some time in the secondary as of late is Omar Gaither. Gaither garnered high praise from Fulmer due to his unselfishness and versatility.

"He plays on all the special teams," Fulmer said. "He can play any of the three positions at linebacker. He plays in the nickel and dime packages because he can cover so well. We tried him back there at safety. That's not out of the question just yet because he knows what's going on. He's an ultimate utility player."

The defensive line, particularly defensive tackle, was cause for concern just a few short days ago. Only three players entered camp with any division-one experience. However, the emergence of a few youngsters at end have allowed some veterans to move inside and provide some depth at tackle.

"Turk (McBride) is easily our fourth defensive tackle right now," said Fulmer. "We're looking for LaRon Harris and Ell Ash to come on and make some strides. Karlton Neal would probably be next. We're fortunate to have some young guys at defensive end that could make a difference."

On the offensive side of the ball, there are some fierce battles brewing on the line. It looks as if Albert Toeaina and Arron Sears will duke it out for the starting job at right tackle. Fulmer calls it a 'close battle'. Sears, Cody Douglas, and Rob Smith are fighting for the two guard slots, as well. Clearly, Fulmer has a tough decision to make regarding which one's will be on the field first.

"Sears will be a starter somewhere," Fulmer said. Douglas, on the other hand, has battled a myriad of injuries to stay on pace with the others. "He had shoulder surgery in the off-season," Fulmer said. "I don't think he feels comfortable that it's 100-percent yet. Someone fell on him in the first scrimmage and he had a high ankle sprain. He was out there today doing a heck of a job. He's tough and doesn't want to lose his job to Rob Smith or Arron Sears."

Finally, in the backfield, Corey Larkins ran with the first team some on Tuesday. For the first time in a long time, Larkins has Fulmer's trust heading into the season.

"Corey‚s doing a better job of managing himself on the field,"Fulmer said. "He's got speed and play making ability. I'm trusting him more. Trooper (Taylor) has done a good job with him."

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