COLLEGE FOOTBALL PACKAGE: No. 24 Tennessee eager for Coker to show his speed again Print
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Wednesday, 05 September 2007 14:58
NCAAF Headline News

 KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Tennessee's running game should get a jolt Saturday when tailback LaMarcus Coker returns to action against Southern Mississippi.
The sophomore tailback was recently reinstated to the team after being suspended at the beginning of August for what coaches described only as a medical condition that he needed to deal with.
``The thing he needed to do, and I go back to this all the time, and that's accountability,'' running backs coach Kurt Roper said, declining to discuss anything specific related to Coker's problems.
Coker was also suspended for several practices last December in advance of the Outback Bowl for undisclosed reasons.
``Did he need major changes? No. He's a good person, a goodhearted person and a nice person, a guy you like to be around,'' Roper said.
Coker had 696 yards rushing last year even though he missed two games because of a knee injury. He worked his way up the depth chart early in the season with an injury to Arian Foster and by outrunning Montario Hardesty.
He made a splash with a 48-yard touchdown reception on a trick play against Florida and an 89-yard touchdown run against Marshall, the third longest rushing play in school history. His 87-yard rush against Vanderbilt was the fourth longest.
``He's a heck of a football player. He's really fast. He's a playmaker,'' Roper said.
With quarterback Erik Ainge, the Vols moved the ball well in a 45-31 loss to California (1-0), but only had one long-distance run - a 42-yard run from Foster in the third quarter.
``You miss his speed,'' Ainge said of Coker. ``You forget how fast he is when he's not practicing.''
Coach Phillip Fulmer said Coker requested not to speak to the media in the week leading up to the Southern Miss game. Fulmer said Coker has been ``taking care of business'' on the athletic, academic and social fronts.
That's a good thing, coach Phillip Fulmer said, because he's not going to have an opportunity to mess up again.
``We'll continue to work with him, but as he clearly understands, there are no more chances,'' he said.
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HELP WANTED: Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said two of the three starting linebacker slots are up for grabs.
After watching tape of last Saturday's 50-10 victory over Eastern Kentucky, Brooks moved Sam Maxwell in front of Johnny Williams on the depth chart at outside linebacker, and Braxton Kelley and Micah Johnson continue to compete for the middle linebacker job.
Brooks named Williams the starter at outside linebacker coming out of fall camp, but the head coach was pleased with Maxwell's play against Eastern Kentucky.
``Sam, in fewer reps than Johnny had, made some outstanding plays,'' said Brooks, whose Wildcats (1-0) host Kent State (1-0) on Saturday. ``Sam played better in a shorter period of time in the game. I'm sure they're both going to play, and that thing isn't over.''
Despite what Brooks termed a ``disappointing'' fall camp, Maxwell exceeded the head coach's expectations in the opener.
``He played very good in the spring and took that spot over and then this fall just didn't look very good in practice,'' Brooks said. ``(But) in the game he was really good. He was quick and decisive and physical.''
Kelley, who has struggled with injuries, continues to push Johnson for the top job in the middle.
``We've only seen him healthy in about eight practices including all of fall camp,'' Brooks said. ``So that's not a lot to judge by. We'll just have to see how it goes this week.''
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COMING SOON: The wait might soon be over for Auburn tailback Mario Fannin.
The much-talked about redshirt freshman watched from the sidelines as the 17th-ranked Tigers struggled to get a running game going in a 23-13 win over Kansas State. Fannin could very well get his chance Saturday night against South Florida.
``Sooner or later, we've got to go ahead and say, 'Let's go. Go in there and see what you've learned,''' coach Tommy Tuberville said.
The Tigers may need help from Fannin thanks to the uncertain status of preseason No. 1 tailback Brad Lester, who remains suspended indefinitely for academic issues.
Starter Ben Tate gained 82 yards on 23 carries in the opener, and fullback-tailback Carl Stewart rushed seven times for just 5 yards.
Fannin was mostly idle.
``It's pretty tough,'' said the 5-foot-11, 219-pounder, who did have a kickoff return. ``You've just got to learn from it. You shouldn't look at it as a negative issue. It's just time for me to continue learning. Everybody feels like they can help, but sometimes support is the way you can help. So I just supported the team.''
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NOT BAD: Even though Matt Flynn's debut as an LSU starter looked shaky at times, head coach Les Miles had no interest in becoming one of Flynn's early critics.
``Matt Flynn had a nice outing,'' Miles said. ``He managed the game well. He avoided negative plays and made some great throwaways. His play was certainly not perfect but it was what we look for on a regular basis.''
Flynn's greatest strength was avoiding bad plays such as sacks and interceptions.
In No. 2 LSU's 45-0 victory over Mississippi State, Flynn finished with 128 yards on 12 of 19 passing with two touchdowns and no turnovers before resting most of the fourth quarter. It was only the second career start for Flynn, whose other one was in place of then-injured starter JaMarcus Russell in the 2005 Peach Bowl - a game the Tigers won 40-3 over Miami.
LSU is now 2-0, with an average margin of victory of 41 points, with Flynn as starter.
Flynn makes his first start at Tiger Stadium on Saturday night against No. 9 Virginia Tech.
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PLAYMAKER: Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron expected cornerback Dustin Mouzon to be a good player this season because of his consistency. Mouzon turned out to be a playmaker in his first game.
``It was outstanding,'' Orgeron said of Mouzon's performance in a 23-21 victory over Memphis, which earned him the Southeastern Conference's defensive player of the week award. ``He is a young man who has worked very hard ever since I have been here. (He) had a couple of injuries last year, didn't really get to show his stuff. But now he is kind of like our feature corner.''
Mouzon had two interceptions, including one he returned 99 yards for a touchdown. He also had six tackles and a fumble recovery.
Defensive end Greg Hardy also had a big game for the Rebels. He had 11 tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss, and returned an apparent fumble for a touchdown that was denied by replay review. That came along with his touchdown catch as a receiver with the offense.
``He may have been the player of the week in the SEC if we get credited with the fumble when he scooped it and scored,'' defensive coordinator John Thompson said. ``He had a bunch of tackles, had a sack, had a touchdown. He was very, very active and made some big plays for us.''
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AP sports writers Brett Martel in New Orleans, John Zenor in Auburn, Ala., Jeff McMurray in Lexington, Ky., and Chris Talbott in Jackson, Miss., contributed to this report.
 

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