November 20, 2008

Foster back; Hardesty to start

Arian Foster returned to the practice field Thursday for Tennessee, but the senior tailback won't be back in the starting lineup Saturday when the Vols (3-7, 1-5 SEC) visit Vanderbilt (6-4, 4-3).

Junior Montario Hardesty will start in place of Foster, who suffered a deep thigh bruise in the Vols' Nov. 1 loss at South Carolina. Foster sat out the Wyoming game and practices since that contest before Thursday's return from rehabbing the injury.

"Looks like Arian is well enough to anticipate him playing," said UT coach Phillip Fulmer. "That was good to get him back out here, just to see him and his presence. He's been a tough guy since his time at Tennessee, and this has been one of the slower things in getting him to return from. But it was good to see him get the work."

Fulmer indicated Foster looked capable of helping the Vols on Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET, RayCom).

"He did good, actually. Actually very good. Still a little bit sore," Fulmer said. "That swelling has gone out, it went from his thigh to his knee. Another day and I think he'll be ready to go."

Added first-year offensive coordinator Dave Clawson, "I was glad to see Arian practice. First time in a long time."

Foster's late-week return capped preparations for the Commodores that left Fulmer pleased.

"We were probably as sharp as we've been offensively this year," Fulmer said. "Dang I just hope it carries over to the game."

Redshirt freshman quarterback B.J. Coleman has gotten his most extensive work to date in practice running the Vols' offense, and Fulmer said earlier this week Coleman definitely would play against Vanderbilt.

Clawson just isn't saying when Coleman's time might come in Saturday's contest. Jonathan Crompton returns to the starting lineup for the first time since UT's 14-12 loss Sept. 27 at Auburn.

"We're going to talk about that tomorrow," Clawson, chuckling, said of when Coleman might get his first varsity series. "If I knew, I wouldn't tell you anyways, but I know you've got to ask."

Full force

Tennessee's defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell will open Saturday afternoon against Vanderbilt with his full complement of defensive ends. He hopes he finishes the game that way something that has been a struggle for that unit the second half of the season.

Starter Wes Brown is battling torn meniscus in his knee and Chris Walker is battling a bad back. Both are "fresh" after a week off and ready to play, but neither are "healthy" and certainly it's no guarantee that they can get through a game.

And this week, the defensive ends face a real challenge in trying to contain, Vanderbilt quarterback Chris Nickson. A week ago at Kentucky, Nickson rushed for 118 yards and threw for 155 yards. The dual threat ability is a cause of great concern to the Vol defense.

"When their second leading rusher is their quarterback, he is so mobile that it will slow down your pass rush," Caldwell said. "It's like we have always said, it's like putting another running back, back there. He operated very well last week (against Kentucky). He puts some pressure on you. We have to do a great job keeping him in the pocket and at the same time, when you keep him in the pocket you don't let him go north and south on you either."

By no means will this be Tennessee's first bout with a quarterback who does things with his feet. Three weeks ago at South Carolina, in the Gamecocks only true scoring drive, it was Stephen Garcia's ability to get out of the pocket and make plays outside of the defensive ends that allowed Carolina to take control of the game early. Of course everyone knows about Tim Tebow at Florida and it has become the norm in college football to have a mobile signal-caller. The result is that it has changed how you play at defensive end greatly.

"It has complicated the defensive end position," Caldwell said. "It has put pressure on them. The athletic quarterback slows you down. Used to that you tried to not tie your guys down too much, you just turned them loose and let them rush the passer because if the quarterback broke contain you were going to run him down before he made a first down. In this day in time with the mobile quarterbacks it's different."

Roster subtraction, addition

Defensive tackle Donald Langley didn't make the Vols' 70-man travel roster for this contest. Senior walk-on Phillip Tritapoe will make a rare road travel squad, a likely gesture of appreciation for the Kingsport native's dedication to the program.

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