Even Berry plucked for Vol quarterback auditions
Posted: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 5:34 pm
By: By BETH RUCKER, Associated Press Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Now is the time for anyone with quarterbacking experience at Tennessee to step forward.
After poor quarterback play contributed heavily to the Vols’ seventh loss of the season, coach Phillip Fulmer plans to give a closer look to third-string freshman B.J. Coleman and even sophomore safety Eric Berry during Tennessee’s off week.
“Right now we’ll look at everything,” he said.
A homecoming matchup with the Football Bowl Subdivision’s lowest scoring team in Wyoming appeared to be a solid opportunity for starter Nick Stephens to regain some confidence after throwing his first career interception at South Carolina.
But Stephens threw two interceptions to Cowboys players, one which was returned for a touchdown and the other which set up a second TD. That was all the 261/2-point underdogs needed to pull out a 13-7 win.
Fulmer and offensive coordinator Dave Clawson benched Stephens after the second pick midway through the second quarter and put in Jonathan Crompton, who started the first four games of the season.
Crompton, a junior, certainly didn’t do anything to make matters worse, but his attempt to mount a comeback fell short as he and receivers struggled to make connections.
The Vols (3-7, 1-5 Southeastern Conference) have a week to rest and recover — mentally and physically — before facing Vanderbilt next week.
They’ll practice Tuesday and Wednesday and hold a junior varsity game against Hargrave Military Academy on Thursday before taking the weekend off.
The JV game will give Coleman a chance to experience a game-like atmosphere. So far, his only playing time came in the last drive of a 35-3 win over UAB, and he handed the ball off four times.
Fulmer thinks the full-speed, light-contact practices Tennessee has held for the last few weeks has helped Coleman prepare as well.
“Do we think he’s the catchall answer? He’s got a really good demeanor about him, and he’s smart. I think he’s going to be good,” Fulmer said.
Coleman, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound Chattanooga native, still needs to work on some fundamental things, like his footwork, Fulmer said.
Clawson said Coleman got a few more reps during practice last week and that he and Fulmer discussed putting the young quarterback in the game in place of Stephens.
“We decided to go with Jonathan, but it’s probably something we need to look at hard. He’s practiced well, and we’ll see,” he said.
Fulmer said he’d also look at the possibility of putting Berry, the SEC’s career interception return yards leader, behind center a few times in a package similar to Gerald Jones’ “G-gun” scheme. Coaches have backed off using the G-gun since Jones suffered an ankle injury against Mississippi State on Oct. 18.
Like Jones, Berry was a high school quarterback who was recruited to play a different position. He lined up as the slot receiver for one play against Alabama and caught a three-yard pass.
“I think Eric could do some things, certainly, at quarterback. We’ve tried him in some of the packages that Gerald Jones was doing. He’s not a great passer but some of the things he does running the football is pretty exceptional. We’ll look at that,” Fulmer said.