Winning the offensive award is Ramon Foster, a 6-6, 325-pound junior lineman. Winning the defensive award is Marsalous Johnson, a 5-9, 180-pound sophomore cornerback. Both are native Tennesseans. Foster grew up in Henning, Johnson in Smyrna.
Foster has played in 18 Vol games with two starts, both as a redshirt freshman in 2005. He is listed first-team at left guard on the spring depth chart. His greatest asset – other than his size – is his versatility.
“Ramon Foster is one of those guys that can not only play right guard and left guard; he can play right tackle and left tackle,” offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe said. “It (football) has always been important to Ramon but it has really become important to him. It’s good to see him grow.”
The coordinator indicated that several more offensive players made “great strides” during the spring, pinpointing tackle Chris Scott, running back Arian Foster, tight ends Brad and Jeff Cottam, and quarterback Erik Ainge “when he was healthy.”
Noting that several more players made strides during the spring, Cutcliffe said there were “a lot of positives that way.”
Johnson has played in eight games with no starts. He recorded two tackles last season and also returned five kickoffs for 83 yards, a 16.6 average. He is listed first-team at right corner this spring
“We felt for a long time like he could be that kind of player,” defensive coordinator John Chavis said. “Now he’s got the opportunity to be in there every single down and get all the reps, and he’s taken advantage of it. (Secondary coach) Larry Slade’s done a terrific job – not only with him but with the entire secondary.”
Johnson’s main claim to fame during his first two years on campus was an arrest for allegedly waving a pellet gun at an off-duty police officer last summer. He appears to have matured – as a person and as a football player – since that incident.
“I’m not surprised to see him go where he’s gone,” Chavis said. “We certainly hope he’s going to come back in and pick up in the fall where he left off because we need for him to do that.
“We need for him to start growing into a leader. When you look at our secondary – bringing one starter back in (Jonathan) Hefney – he needs some other people around him who are going to be playing at that level.”