"I think we have the maturity to handle (the high expectations) well," Vols Head Coach Phillup Fulmer said.
Despite temperatures in the 40s and wind chills feeling colder than that, the Vols practiced outside in shorts. Coach Fulmer said the rules dictated that they had to practice for two days in shorts. They will work in full pads and have their first contact of the spring on Saturday.
All eyes will be on the throwing shoulder of rising sophomore QB Erik Ainge. Ainge missed the final 4 games of last season when he separated his right shoulder in the Notre Dame game. Rick Clausen took over at quarterback and was named MVP of the Cotton Bowl. Rising sophomore QB and Florida native Brent Schaeffer is also in the hunt to start. Schaeffer had injury issues of his own with a broken collarbone suffered in the South Carolina game.
"They both looked good today, as did Rick," Coach Fulmer saidof his QB trio. "It's going to be a good competition. Each one of them started a team period. We're not trying to play any favorites. They all got about the same number of reps. It'll work itself out." Fulmer said that a starting QB will probably be named at the conclusion of Spring practice.
Many key players are nursing injuries and will not participate in Spring drills. Three of them had surgery within the last week. Center Rich Gandy, a 6-5 senior, had left Knee surgery last Friday. Gandy damaged his ACL during an intramural basketball game in Febuary. Gandy can play any position on the offensive line. Defensive end Jason Hall had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder Monday. Hall was named SEC Defensive player of the week in Tennessee's upset win at Georgia. Kicker James Wilhoit had right foot surgery Monday in Charlotte, NC . Wilhoit nailed a game winning 50 yard field goal against Florida
Redshirt freshman defensive back Sinclair Cannon attended classes on campus Tuesday. Cannon was involved in an auto accident near his home in Greer, SC on Febuary 20th. Cannon will not practice this week and his status for the Spring is day-to-day.
With so may players out, that will allow younger players to show the coaching staff what they can do.
"This is what Spring practice is for," said Coach Fulmer. "Its not for me to see Parys Haralson, Omar Gaither, or Jason Allen or Gearld Riggs play. Its for the younger players more than anything. When we have a big scrimmage, the older guys will get 5 plays and then the younger players will get 20. Then the older guys will get 5 plays and the young guys will get 20. That's where we will find out about their toughness and ability. Unfortunately, Spring practice is only 15 days."
Spring practice will conclude with the Orange and White game on Saturday, April 16th.
Fulmer when asked about Buzz-"Sure I hope he is back. Buzz is a great friend and a really fine basketball coach. He is a fine man with a great family and loves Tennessee. I certainly would like to see him come back. But he also understands that it is a profession, like ours, thats volatile at times. I trust the administration will make a good decision for Tennessee. Thats the world we live in."