Placekicker and punter at Tennessee are head coach Phillip Fulmer’s idea of conservative -- the less change the better. Yet 2007 could provide a more liberal bent to the daily routine of junior Britton Colquitt. In fact, it could turn into something not seen in these parts since President Harry S. Truman was welcoming bowl champions to the White House.
Colquitt earned consensus All-SEC honors as a sophomore punter and has sparkled in the early going of this preseason. It’s the placekicking option that has drawn interest, though, as Colquitt and redshirt freshman Daniel Lincoln are front-runners for the duties of field goals, extra points and kickoffs from the 30-yard line.
“That change in the spot for kickoffs is the biggest rules change since they began letting offensive linemen use their hands to block,” Fulmer said after Wednesday morning’s practice. “You’re talking about all the offensive records potentially going out the window because teams are going to be starting with such good field position.”
The Vols may be starting this season with one player manning the two kicking positions for the first time since 1952, when Pat Shires held the dual role during Gen. Robert R. Neyland’s final head coaching season.
“The tailback always punted,” Shires said of his regular duties in Neyland’s single-wing offense. “Then I became the first team extra-point kicker because somebody else starting missing.”
A Hinton, W.Va., native who lettered for the Vols in 1950, 1952 and 1953, Shires was quite the multi-purpose threat for the Big Orange. Memorable of note was his performance in the Vols 41-14 win over North Carolina.
“I scored a touchdown, passed for a touchdown, kicked five extra points (made four), threw a pass for an extra point and attempted a field goal. I missed the field goal - I only tried three in all the years I was there.”
Shires thinks today’s athletes are more than up to the dual tasks of punting and placekicking, although practice and game demands are quite different for today’s special-teamers.
“Back when I was there, all we did was practice a little bit on Thursday kicking extra points,” Shires said. “And I think Thursday was the day the punters also went out a little bit early and punted.”
Kicking tryouts haven’t been a necessity for the Vols in recent years after four quality seasons from James Wilhoit at placekicker and a combined six seasons of punting from brothers Dustin and Britton Colquitt. But Lincoln, an Ocala, Fla., native, is pushing Colquitt for a shared spot on the depth chart in competition that likely will carry on for a few more weeks.
“I’m not set on anything,” Fulmer said. “We are kind of still at square one. We went to square two, but now we’re back to square one.
“Britton may be doing all the kicking but it’s not a concern. (Ryan) Succop does it at South Carolina and other people have done it. Britton’s fine with it, but we just have to be smart and make sure we don’t over-kick him.”
The Vols held their final preseason practice Wednesday morning at Robert M. Lindsay Field at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Thursday’s two-a-day sessions move to Haslam Field, and Saturday night marks the team’s second key scrimmage in eight days.
Tennessee’s opens the 2007 slate Sept. 1 at California. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. Pacific time (8 p.m. Eastern) on ABC Sports.