Vols QB Nick Stephens still has room to improve Print
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Wednesday, 22 October 2008 13:46
NCAAF Headline News

 KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Three starts into his career, quarterback Nick Stephens has avoided the big mistakes that helped get the last Tennessee quarterback benched.
Volunteers coach Phillip Fulmer wants to see more from Stephens, beginning Saturday night against No. 2 Alabama (7-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) .
``I've been pleased with Nick as a first-time starter. I think he's had enough games now under his belt, his game management has been good, but there's another step, another level,'' Fulmer said.
The sophomore took over against Northern Illinois after junior Jonathan Crompton had struggled through four games.
Stephens' numbers aren't much. He's completed 49.3 percent of his passes for an average 135.5 yards per game compared to Crompton's 52 percent for an average 164.5 yards.
But with three touchdown passes and no interceptions, Stephens has thrown one more touchdown and four fewer interceptions than Crompton in one fewer start.
w it will affect his play.
``One thing I do pride myself on is if I do make a mistake I can put that behind me and go out and keep playing. I don't let it affect me mentally,'' he said.
That's because Stephens has a lot of moxie, offensive coordinator Dave Clawson likes to say. He's calm when the things aren't going his way, and when there's no one to throw to, he either throws the ball away or tries to make a play running.
Clawson said Stephens is actually better at managing a game than he is managing play during practice, which is opposite of what coaches said of Crompton earlier in the season.
``There's throws that (Stephens) makes in practice where you shake your head and say, 'What were you thinking?' He's managed games well so far and has got to continue to do that,'' Clawson said.
RIVALRY: Alabama defensive back Javier Arenas didn't fully grasp how seriously Crimson Tide players and fans take the Tennessee rivalry when he arrived on campus, or even when he boarded the plane to Knoxville as a freshman.
By the time he landed, Arenas had been educated.
``Everybody was quite focused, doing rituals and things of that nature,'' he said. ``And I'm listening to Tupac singing out loud on the plane. And I got cursed out. They were like, 'What are you doing, man?'
``They explained it to me. I just thought it was Auburn. Auburn's the rival, that's what I thought.''
ot every Tide player comes to Tuscaloosa fully versed on the rivalry. Arenas, for one, is from Florida. Left tackle Andre Smith is from Birmingham but grew up following Florida State.
Quarterback John Parker Wilson, however, said the atmosphere is similar to the Iron Bowl.
``It kind of makes everything happen quicker,'' he said.
One tradition that has gone by the wayside in the series for the players: Puffing on victory cigars.
Tide players didn't get any stogies after last year's 41-17 win.
``The NCAA said it was an extra benefit,'' safety Rashad Johnson said.
CHEERS FOR CHEERLEADER: No. 5 Florida will honor one of its oldest cheerleaders before Saturday's game against Kentucky.
George Edmondson, better known as Mr. Two Bits, will be recognized before Florida's Homecoming game against the Wildcats. The 86-year-old Edmondson is planning to retire at the end of this season, 60 years after he first gave his famous ``two bits'' cheer at Florida Field.
Dressed in a long-sleeve, button-down yellow shirt, light blue pants and an orange and blue stripped tie, Edmondson moves from section to section carrying a ``2-bits'' sign and a whistle. When there's a break in the action, he stands up and blows his whistle several times to signify the start of the cheer.
``Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar. All for the Gators, stand up and holler,'' the crowd yells in unison.
The cheer began when Edmondson, a retired accounting salesman from Tampa, attended a Florida game in 1949 against his alma mater, the Citadel. The Gators were losing badly, so to boost morale, Edmondson led the cheer. It caught on over the years, and the school eventually named him an honorary alumnus even though he never attended Florida.
SCARY: Four more Kentucky defensive players could join defensive tackle Myron Pryor on the sideline against Florida in what coach Rich Brooks calls the Wildcats' scariest defensive challenge of the year.
Pryor's high-ankle sprain will keep him out against the Gators. But Brooks says it remains unclear whether others who have practiced will be available. They include linebacker and defensive captain Braxton Kelly, linebacker Johnny Williams, safety Marcus McClinton and cornerback David Jones.
Those injuries are in addition to the ones on the offensive side for Kentucky. Leading receiver Dicky Lyons Jr. and leading rusher Derrick Locke are out for the year with knee injuries.
``We're going to have five, six, seven people at least banged up for the game,'' defensive lineman Corey Peters said. ``People are going to have to step up and make plays. That's what is necessary to win in the SEC.''
TWO-SPORT STAR: Jamie Graham is Vanderbilt's two-sport star.
en's basketball team last winter, and now is becoming comfortable at wide receiver.
He caught two touchdown passes in last weekend's 24-14 loss at Georgia - the first of his career.
Not bad for someone who was playing defensive back until the start of fall practice in August.
Coach Bobby Johnson said they didn't need help at receiver last season, a position they had the SEC's all-time leading receiver at in Earl Bennett. But they found themselves looking for bodies when George Smith had a stress fracture in his foot with some other injuries, so Graham was swapped from defense to offense.
``We knew he was a very fine athlete and just a matter of time before he started producing. He produced in a big way the other day, just very athletic catches in the corner of the end zone,'' Johnson said.

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