With the opener at Cal just one week away, head coach Phil Fulmer announced following this morning's kicking scrimmage that junior tailback Arian Foster
and rookie receiver Denarius Moore
are the first-team deep men on kick returns. Four days earlier Fulmer had said Foster and junior receiver Lucas Taylor
comprised the No. 1 return duo.
"Right now Dernarius Moore and Arian Foster would be the first to go out there," Fulmer said. "We've got a lot of young, exciting guys, and we're going to try and get those guys in the mix as we go along."
Moore and Foster worked with the No. 1 return unit during the two-hour kicking scrimmage. Taylor, junior receiver Kenny O'Neal, sophomore cornerback Marsalous Johnson and freshman tailback Lennon Creer also handled some kickoffs.
Because Game 1 will be played on the road before a national TV audience, Fulmer expects to utilize a veteran like Foster as one of the deep men.
"Not knowing just exactly in the first game what you might see (bloop kicks, squib kicks, etc.), I want to make sure we've got an older guy back there with a younger guy to help him manage that," Fulmer said.
Still, the head man said the Vols might have two first-year players deep the first time Cal kicks off.
"It could end up being Creer (and Moore)," Fulmer said. "That would be unusual with both of them coming from the same (Tatum, Texas) high school."
Moore had a 95-yard return nullified by a penalty in Tennessee's second full-scale scrimmage and has shown big-play capabilities as a pass catcher, as well. Asked what he likes most about the talented Texan, Fulmer answered without hesitation.
"Maturity," the coach said. "He handles everything, is obviously a great athlete that catches the ball well and hits it (the hole) hard. He has made great decisions, as far as catching the bloops and communicating and those kinds of things."
Assistant coach Trooper Taylor, who set school records as a return man at Baylor University and now works with UT's return specialists, also touched on Moore's maturity.
"I like his maturity," Taylor said. "I tease him all the time because my old high school used to play the program he came out of, Tatum, but they do a good job down there. He understands temperament. He understands being tough. That's what he brings – his maturity level and the fact he's not afraid to stick his face in there."
Fulmer has used more than one return duo in a game several times during his tenure as Tennessee's head coach. When asked if that is a possibility for the opener against the Golden Bears, he suggested such a scenario is unlikely.
"This is a huge game," he said. "They're the 12th-ranked team in the country and it's a national television game. If you were playing West Virginia Tech or something like that, you'd certainly do some (experimenting) to get a look at some things.
"I hope we can (explore some options) along the way in the first two ball games. But we want to win the games first. We're going to do whatever we have to do to win the games. If we can get a look at some people … we will certainly do that. But our first order of business is to go win the game."
One of Tennessee's dynamic freshmen has worked his way onto the No. 1 kickoff return unit.