Senior offensive tackle Ramon Foster made his first college appearance – and first college start – against the Blazers back in 2005.
“I remember it distinctly,” Foster says. “I missed a block on one play and I got chewed out on the sideline at the end of the series.”
Foster, a 6-6, 325-pounder from Henning, redshirted as a true freshman in 2004 and figured to play a backup role throughout 2005. Because of a preseason injury to senior Cody Douglas, however, Foster was thrust into the starting lineup for the '05 opener.
“I started at left guard, got in for three or four series,” he recalls. “Then Cody Douglas – who was hurt – came in a little bit, then I finished it off.”
Most guys are a bundle of nerves when pressed into the starting lineup for their college debut. Foster admits finding the experience pretty stressful.
“It was. It was,” he says. “Except for (true freshman quarterbacks) Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer, I probably was the youngest guy in that game. It was good for me, though. I got a lot of experience my redshirt freshman year.”
Starting his college debut didn't exactly put Foster's career on the fast track, however. He got just one more start in '05 and zero starts in 2006. He finally worked his way into the starting lineup last fall, however, and opened all 14 games at right tackle.
Now solidly entrenched as a first-teamer and team leader, Foster admits that a lot has changed in his life since the last time he faced UAB.
“I'm smarter,” he says. “I've got a little bit more game experience and I understand that you've got to go all out for 70 plays.”
Although he was a two-way starter during all four years at Class 3A Ripley High School, Foster was unprepared for the steady diet of technique, terminology, alignments and assignments he was force-fed upon enrolling at UT in the fall of 2004.
“It's been a big learning experience,” he concedes with a shake of the head. “Coming out of high school, all I knew was to block the man over me into the linebacker. That was it. Now I understand it (blocking scheme) a little bit.”
Although Foster and his fellow linemen struggled with pass protection in the Vols' opening loss at UCLA, he says that can't be blamed on the new scheme first-year offensive coordinator Dave Clawson has installed. Foster insists that all of the players know the scheme and their roles in it.
“Oh, yeah,” he says. “We understand. Coach Clawson, Coach Fulmer and Coach Adkins have done a great job of preparing us as an offensive line about getting the plays right. We just need to execute. We didn't fulfill our duties in that game.”
So, what is the key to bouncing back from the Game 1 loss?
“Attention to detail,” Foster says. “We're going out with the mindset we're facing a team with a lot of different schemes, and that's something we're going to have to concentrate on.”
Tennessee is heavily favored against a UAB team that has allowed 577.5 yards and and 47 points per game through its first two outings. Foster is taking nothing for granted against the Blazers, however.
“The best team that day is going to win,” he says. “If they play us well enough, they can definitely beat us.”