The Vols gradually moved more toward two-tight end alignments the past few years, eliminating the fullback from many offensive sets. On third-and-short, however, few plays are more effective than running the tailback behind the lead block of the fullback. That's why Tennessee continues to sign high school fullbacks such as Channing Fugate.
The 6-2, 244-pound freshman from Jackson, Ky., was ranked America's No. 6 fullback prospect by Scout.com last winter. No wonder. He ran for 1,727 yards and 30 touchdowns as a sophomore, 3,052 yards and 36 TDs as a junior, then 1,332 yards and 17 TDs as a senior at Breathitt County High School. He can catch the ball, too, a skill he showcased by reeling in 45 passes as a sophomore.
Fugate enrolled at UT last January and finished spring practice No. 2 on the depth chart behind senior Kevin Cooper. Fugate looked so good that Vol coaches felt safe moving junior Austin Johnson, the No. 2 fullback in 2009, to middle linebacker during spring practice.
Fugate didn't carry the ball in any of Tennessee's three major spring scrimmages but he showcased his receiving skills with a pair of catches in the Orange & White Game.
With 6-6, 255-pound tight end Luke Stocker appearing primed for a big senior season, Tennessee's coaches likely will limit the fullback to minor roles this fall. Still, the staff may find some playing time for Channing Fugate.
The guy ran for 3,000 yards as a high school junior. That ought to warrant a look, right?