Cock with kick

Cock with kick

Tennessee head football coach Phillip Fulmer took a long look at Ryan Succop of Hickory, N.C., during the recruiting process two years ago. Fulmer will get another long look at Succop this weekend in Columbia.

That's because Succop handles both the punting and placement chores for the South Carolina Gamecocks, who host the Vols tonight at 7:45 in Williams-Brice Stadium.

Through Carolina's first seven games Succop has been nothing short of brilliant. The talented sophomore has nailed nine of 10 field-goal tries, including a career-best 55-yarder last weekend vs. Vanderbilt. His lone miss was a 51-yarder against Georgia in Game 2 that bounced off the left upright. In addition, his 44.4-yard punting average ranks third in the SEC and his 41.72 net average ranks second nationally.

"They have a very fine kicker in Ryan Succop, who we recruited and looked at for a long, long time," Fulmer noted this week. "But we just weren't in a position sign him."

That's because the Vols already had a quality punting prospect (Britton (Colquitt) and a proven place-kicker (James Wilhoit) on scholarship.

Succop will be going one-against-two tonight but he's accustomed to that. He's one of those rare individuals who excels in the dual role of punter/place-kicker.

"He's done very well as their kicker and their punter," Fulmer noted. "Our kicker and punter will have to take the challenge, which I believe they will and they are capable of doing."

Colquitt and Wilhoit appear more than capable. Colquitt's 46.9-yard punting average would lead the entire NCAA if he had enough kicks to qualify for the rankings. Meanwhile, Wilhoit has made 10 of 12 field-goal attempts this fall, including a 51-yarder against Florida. He also has put 24 of 45 kickoffs into the end zone.

Tennessee's chances of winning the kicking game tonight suffered a blow when the Vols learned that tailback LaMarcus Coker is out three to six weeks with a strained knee. Coker, who doubled as the No.1 kickoff return man, was averaging a team-high 19.9 yards per runback at the time of his injury.

Receiver Lucas Taylor and cornerback Marsalous Johnson are expected to share the kickoff return duties tonight, with Rock Hill, S.C., native Jonathan Hefney handling the punt-return chores.

With the Vols installed as scant five-point favorites, special teams could prove decisive tonight.

Fulmer concedes as much, noting: "The kicking game is an area that we want to continue to try to win."

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