Vols getting no kicks

Vols getting no kicks

Tennessee played five football games decided by five or fewer points last season, winning twice and losing three times. The wins were by three points (vs. LSU) and by four points (vs. Memphis). The losses were by one point (to South Carolina), three points (to Alabama) and four points (to Vanderbilt).

Odds are, the Vols will play five or six more close games in 2006. That means a field goal here or there could mean the difference between a 10-2 record and a 6-6 record. Based on James Wilhoit's success kicking field goals in 2005 (14 of 19), Tennessee should be able to win its share of close games.

Wilhoit struggled in last Saturday night's scrimmage, however, making just four of 10 field goal tries. He connected from 37 yards, 31 yards and from 41 twice. He missed from 46, 39, 35, 45, 47 and 55 yards. Four of the misses were wide right. One was wide left and the last one was short.

Punter Britton Colquitt, who also serves as the backup placement specialist, missed from 31 yards, hit from 35 and 37, then missed way right from 41 yards.

"The kickers seemed like they kinda' took the day off," head coach Phillip Fulmer noted. "That wasn't good."

The head man isn't terribly worried, though. Wilhoit has 10 days before the opener to sharpen his aim.

"James has kicked very well in camp," Fulmer said, "and I have no doubt he'll get himself right back on track and be fine."

Colquitt, a soccer star in high school, has great range on his placements but tends to spray his kicks a bit.

"Britton has not worked very much on field goals and extra points," Fulmer noted, "so it was important that he get a little bit of that."

Colquitt also punted five times for a 45.0-yard average during the scrimmage.

Tennessee did some work on punt and kickoff returns Saturday night, with mixed results. Robert Meachem blocked a punt by freshman Daniel Lincoln, and Antwan Stewart returned it for a touchdown.

Jonathan Hefney was decked at the 18-yard line after a mere 15-yard kickoff return. Lucas Taylor returned the next kickoff 88 yards, from his goal line to the opposing 12-yard line. Later in the scrimmage, Austin Rogers returned a punt 60 yards to the 10-yard line. All of the returns were made against scout-team coverage people.

"The coverage teams were mostly scouts, so I was glad to see us pop a return or two," Fulmer said. "Then we blocked a punt. We've been working hard on those things. It was very positive. The one kickoff return we didn't get back to the 20 – against the scouts – that wasn't good."

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