Fulmer still in evaluation mode

Monday, August 4, 2008 at 2:06am

KNOXVILLE — After only two days of practice, the Tennessee football team isn’t ready to play anyone just yet, but coach Phillip Fulmer is beginning the process of evaluating players and singling out those who will be able to contribute when the season does get under way.

“(I’m) looking for effort and athletic ability. I’m trying to find the best place where they’re going to help our team,” Fulmer said after Sunday’s practice at Haslam Field.

“We’ve made some significant changes with guys before. Jason Witten (NFL tight end) didn’t speak to me for a week after I moved him (from defense). He’s not mad at me anymore. You’re finding those spots where you think they’re going to help your team.”

Although Fulmer and the coaching staff are trying to build depth and give everyone an opportunity to compete for playing time, the more realistic evaluations won’t begin until players don pads on Wednesday.

“(There’s a) lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm. Kind of what you expect to see from a team coming off a good season,” he said. “But football’s not played in shorts and we always say that this time of year, but that’s the truth.

“They’re jumping around and excited. There are some very athletic guys out there. Our secondary yesterday probably had as good a practice as they’ve had in a while. Some real positive things. But until we get into pads, it’s hard to say.”

One significant difference after only a couple of practices is that the Vols are much more comfortable with the new offense installed in the spring by coordinator Dave Clawson.

“Actually, probably a little ahead (of where I thought we’d be),” Fulmer said. “The (terminology) is very familiar now. It’s not something they had to learn brand new like in the spring, not like it was in the spring. We’re ahead right now of any time where we were in the spring.”

The Vols will continue fall practice this afternoon. The season opens in four weeks at UCLA.

NO WORD: Before anyone could ask, Fulmer let it be known that he has still not gotten any word on the status of former Alcoa High standout Brandon Warren, who transferred to UT from Florida State and is awaiting approval from the SEC and NCAA on his status.

“Don’t even ask about Brandon Warren. When I find out, you guys will be the first to know. I’ll probably paint a sign on that building right there,” Fulmer said, pointing to the backside of the Neyland-Thompson Complex.

Fulmer said he expects Warren to be a significant contributor to the team when he is allowed to play.

There has also been no further word on the status of Marlon Walls and Montori Hughes, signees who are awaiting NCAA Clearinghouse approval.

O-LINE DEPTH: Fulmer said Ramone Johnson, Jarrod Shaw and Cody Sullins “may definitely be pushing themselves for playing time” in the offensive line “if the opportunity arises. Then we got another group of guys who are trying to get on the bus to the game,” he added.

ONE CONCERN: Despite the wealth of talent in the secondary, Fulmer says there is still a need to be as deep as possible, especially at safety.

“You need five or six guys who can play either corner. Six would be great. We’re a little concerned about safety. We played DeAngelo (Willingham) a little bit inside today,” Fulmer said.

“We’re just trying to build our depth. (We’re looking at) anyone who can help us there.”

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By: JeffF on 12/31/69 at 7:00

little known fact:the writer of this piece once taught an English class I had in college. True story.