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FORUMS | CHAT | PRINT THIS STORY

Stallworth tries to start year right

By Mike Griffith, News-Sentinel sportswriter
January 1, 2000

TEMPE, Ariz. - Tennessee receiver Donté Stallworth remembers waking up one November morning and realizing it was the last week of the regular season.

"I just thought to myself I wasn't pleased with my season and I felt like I could have done more," said Stallworth, a redshirt freshman who had 23 receptions for 407 yards. "Something got into me Vanderbilt week, and even though I didn't catch a lot of passes in that game, I led the team in intimidation blocks."

Stallworth's role in Sunday's Fiesta Bowl against Nebraska (8 p.m., WATE) figures to be more in line with his receiving abilities.

Stallworth doesn't want to wake up Monday morning with any regrets.

"The year 2000 is going to be different for me," said Stallworth, who is 6-2 and 198 pounds. "I'm going to start the year off right."

Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin, who has fully recovered from the virus that sidelined him earlier this week, said Stallworth has prepared himself.

"I was talking to Donté about the game last night, and he gave me a synopsis on every single Nebraska player," Martin said. "I mean all the little things. The things you wouldn't even think of. One of these games he's going to explode."

The Vols might need that to happen Sunday night. Junior receiver Cedrick Wilson, who led UT with 57 catches for 827 yards, remains bothered by his hamstrings.

Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said Stallworth will be a key regardless of how well Wilson is feeling.

"You look at the stats and toward the end of the year Donté became our leading receiver," Sanders said. "The last four or five games, that helped our team tremendously to have two weapons out there."

Stallworth had 17 catches for 303 yards over the last five games while Wilson had 15 catches for 229 yards and Eric Parker 16 for 173 yards in that same span.

"I've turned my game around," Stallworth said. "I was hesitant at times this season, but now I've got a grip on the offense. I've got a lot more to show people."

PRACTICE REPORT: UT coach Phillip Fulmer and his players held a New Year's celebration at Sun Devil Stadium on Friday night. The team gathered to watch the ball drop on Times Square in New York via the big screen at the stadium.

"I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate together," Fulmer said.

Senior center Spencer Riley sat out Friday's practice with a stomach virus. Riley is expected to practice today.

Third-string fullback Kurston Biggers was also sick and did not practice.

FULMER POWER?: Fulmer, who will coach in the Hula Bowl all-star game in Hawaii on Jan. 23, said there's a chance he could get senior safety Fred White an invitation to the game. So far, the only Vol Fulmer plans on taking is offensive tackle Josh Tucker.

Seven other Vols - Riley, Darwin Walker, Chad Clifton, Dwayne Goodrich, Tee Martin, Raynoch Thompson and Shaun Ellis - will play in the Senior Bowl that same day.

NFL scouts say White is a borderline draft pick, so the postseason is important to his future. He isn't likely to be invited to the combine. White has been invited to play in the Gridiron Classic all-star game in Florida on Super Bowl weekend.

BLOCK THAT KICK: Nebraska blocked 10 punts this season, but UT assistant coach Steve Caldwell said that's not his biggest concern.

"We're more concerned with the coverage part of it," said Caldwell, who handles the Vols' punt and punt return teams. "Bobby Newcombe is the best returner we've faced."

Joe Walker is Nebraska's primary return man, but Newcombe is also back deep. Walker has averaged 7.2 yards on his 30 returns while Newcombe has run back 16 punts for an average of 18.4 yards per return.

"We won't do anything different against him," Caldwell said. "It all comes down to getting off the blockers."

UT uses smaller players on the punt team, such as defensive backs Teddy Gaines, Willie Miles, Mikki Allen, Derrick Edmunds and White, in addition to linebackers Anthony Sessions and Keyon Whiteside.

Caldwell said punter David Leaverton "gets the ball off real quick" and that's why he's not worried about any blocks.

The Vols haven't had a punt blocked since the first game of the 1998 season against Syracuse.

CUT BLOCKS: Nebraska receiver Matt Davison said it's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

"We chop block on every play: It's not something I like to do, but I have to do it, coach's orders," Davison said. "I wouldn't want somebody doing it to me, but it does work; it really does wear a defense out. By the fourth quarter, they don't want to make any more tackles."

Davison said the Huskers' receivers chart their blocking.

"We keep track of knockdowns, blazers and stones," he said. "A blazer is a block that gets a guy into the end zone. Stone is where you'd knock somebody down on a score, and then there's knockdowns. That's as big a stat as you can have when you're a receiver at Nebraska."

Davison leads Nebraska with 29 catches for 441 yards.

NOTEBOOK: UT signee John Rattay watched practice from outside the fence. NCAA rules stipulates that prospects are not allowed on the practice ground. ... Martin's mother was released from a hospital in Mobile, Ala., and will arrive in Tempe today.

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