April 2, 2009

Creer departs; more notes

University of Tennessee junior tailback Lennon Creer has quit the Volunteers' football team, head coach Lane Kiffin confirmed following Thursday's practice.

"Lennon's no longer with us. He's decided, we had a meeting, that he doesn't want to be a part of the program anymore," Kiffin said. "And he's going to go a different direction. So we wish him the best of luck."

Kiffin said Creer, a native of Tatum, Texas, made clear his reasons for leaving the team entering his junior season, but UT's first-year coach declined to discuss specifics.

"I'll keep that between us," Kiffin said. "But we wish him the best of luck."

Creer, who had been expected to compete for a starting job, had battled consistency problems this spring. He practiced last Saturday without a jersey number, similar to Brandon Warren, the Vols' wideout whom Kiffin said on Tuesday must earn back his No. 1 jersey.

Kiffin indicated 6-1, 211-pound Creer, who was listed as one UT's key returnees for 2009, will be released from his scholarship -- as long as it's outside the Southeastern Conference and not a future Vols' opponent.

"We'll sit down and talk about it," Kiffin said of specifics to Creer‘s future destination. "We'll release him outside the conference and probably (exclude) future opponents. But hopefully he finishes the semester well academically so that he'll be able to transfer somewhere."

Running back arguably is the Vols' deepest spot on the team, and it figures to become even deeper and more talented this summer when signees Bryce Brown and David Oku report to campus. Brown was Rivals.com's No. 1 player in 2009 while Oku was a four-star tailback considered a top all-purpose back.

"We've got a pretty good set of guys coming in that we're excited about," Kiffin said. "It gives some other guys some more opportunities."

Shuffling lines

Kiffin indicated the defensive front showed some new looks today and praised the unit for its impressive work against the offense. Wes Brown appeared limited during the drills.

There were also some changes to the offensive front, which included Jarrod Shaw working some at right guard instead of left.

"Thought the defense had a great day, really did. Put in some new fronts, gave the offense some problems," Kiffin said. "We moved some guys around on the offensive line, and they got after us. WE did a lot of third-and-long work as opposed to short-yardage and I thought the defense played well. Offense needs to come out Saturday. Big day Saturday. We're going to treat this (scrimmage) like a game, like we did last Saturday, and get these guys ready to play and see who responds with a bunch of live plays."

Kiffin indicated that Josh McNeil, who told reporters he's bulked up to 280 pounds, is in a battle with Cody Sullins for the starting spot at center. McNeil is a three-year starter who's started every Vols game since the 2006 Memphis contest. Vladimir Richard couldn't practice because of a concussion.

"We moved some guys around and continue to look at some guys from right to left," Kiffin said. "Whenever you do that, that causes a little bit of issues, but it's good to work it out now. Because that's what happens in games sometimes."

More praise for Hancock

Wide receivers coach Frank Wilson, just as Kiffin did on Tuesday, praised the efforts of senior wideout Quintin Hancock, who has surged of late in the Vols' receiver rotation.

It doesn't hurt that Hancock can play the X, Y and Z wideout positions in Tennessee's offense. The 6-foot-3, 207-pounder also impressed during a scrimmage-type setting last Saturday by catching the ball in traffic and playing with

"He's a smart kid, No. 1. He can play all three of the receiver positions," Wilson said. "So he's a very smart young man, and the one thing we didn't know was his physical toughness. Last Saturday he was outstanding. He was the most physical football player on the football field and he's been consistent with that the last two practices also. He has it in him, and we challenged him and it came forth and we're pleased with him."

Bartholomew adjusting

Position changes are always a part of any spring practice on any college campus. This spring has seen probably more than its fair share in Knoxville though.

Among several Vols getting a look at a potential new home this week have been sophomore Ben Bartholomew. After getting a shot at linebacker and then fullback last fall Bartholomew is lining up at tight end this week.

With redshirt freshman Aaron Douglas sliding inside to tackle the coaching staff was looking for another able-body at tight end and their search led them to Bartholomew.

Early indications are that the move could end up being permanent.

"Austin (Johnson) and I were both at fullback and after Aaron moved I think they were wanted to move someone to tight end. I think they saw me as someone who could block along the line and that's why they moved me," Bartholomew said.

"I've worked hard on improving my hands. Like any tight end you're going to drop some balls but I'm working hard at that part of things."

The Vols' fullback position was such a hybrid spot in last year's offensive system, part fullback/part tight-end/part H-back, that Bartholomew has had some carry over, but he's still learning things on the fly every day.

The two positions -- tight end and fullback -- are similar in that they usually call for a tough, physical player to handle the dual-nature of the spots. Bartholomew has the mentality and the requisite toughness to be sure. What's giving him the most trouble now are the technical aspects of the position.

"The hardest part for me is blocking, especially when I'm coming out of a stance on a passing play. Taking that drop-step back like a tackle is the toughest thing to learn," Bartholomew offered. "As a fullback I've always been used to being able to take a couple of steps and get a run at whoever I'm supposed to block, so that's a real difference."

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