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April 21, 2012

'Old man' Randolph anchors Vols' secondary

Sophomore safety Brian Randolph entered the Orange and White game with interceptions in each of the first two scrimmages. The Kennesaw, Ga., native didn't have a pick in Saturday's game, but again stuffed the stat sheet.

Randolph had four tackles, including a tackle for loss, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass break-up.

"I think I played pretty well," Randolph said. "I made couple of mistakes, but overall I thought I did well.

"I think it's a better defense. It's led to a lot more turnovers. It puts us in better position. We are not playing to lose now; we are playing to win."

It's the aggressive style that Randolph believes has everyone excited on defense because, according to Randolph, it fits the personality of the players better.

"We all want to make plays instead of sitting back there playing not to lose. I think we all want to be more aggressive," said the 2011 second-team Yahoo! Freshman All-America pick.

For Randolph, called "Old Man River" by head coach Derek Dooley for his steady play, the goal now is to focus on the playbook and mastering the defensive scheme.

"Just getting the plays down," Randolph offered. "Knowing where to be and making faster decisions.

"I'm not totally comfortable with it. We probably had about three-fourths of all the material in. We are pretty far along with it. We have to get the reps to get it all down."

On Saturday, the Vol defensive scheme was limited. Linebacker Herman Lathers said it was a very basic scheme.

"I think we only had like five calls in on defense," Lather said. "It was a little frustrating for me because we weren't running a lot of different stuff. I think the offense was picking up on what plays we were running. As a defense I think we've got a lot of good plays and whatever coach Sal (Sunseri) calls we've got to be ready to execute it."


By winning the game, the Orange team gets to eat a steak dinner with all the trimmings while the White team receives hot dogs and water. Randolph said he will not only enjoy his steak, but will relish in talking a little junk as well.

"There's going to be a lot (of trash talk) because before the game the white team was talking a bunch of trash. I look forward to getting them back. I didn't talk any trash. I was just quiet. I will now. I wait till after the job it done.

"It will start with the o-line. They talked a whole bunch before the game so I'm going to start with them."

Center Alex Bullard acknowledged he talked a lot before the game and said he was prepared for what's coming at the dinner table.

Added Randolph, "Tell them to get the mustard and the ketchup ready for the hotdogs."


Defensive end Steven Fowlkes watched last season's 5-7 season from a far having been ineligible academically. This spring, Fowlkes is back and has found a home at defensive end. Saturday he was named the winning of the Andy Spiva Defensive Surprise Award. Now, Fowlkes' focus is on getting bigger.

"This past off-season (the winter) was a little crazy. They moved me to linebacker. I was at 265 and I felt like I needed to cut some weight because 265-270 was a little too big to be a linebacker. That was a little obstacle I had to overcome this spring. This summer I know where I'm playing and my focus is on getting bigger and faster."

Fowlkes currently weighs about 255 and said after this spring he believes he can have a big role in the fall.

"I always felt like I could do it," Fowlkes said. "I always thought I could play the game. It's about getting my mind and my body together. This year I felt like I knew what I was doing a little more. I was getting a little better teaching so I was able to take what I was doing in the film room to the field more.

"I think I need to get bigger and more explosive. I think I need to use my hands better in attacking the tight ends and head up on the tackles. I need to get a little bigger and stronger and I think I will have a good fall."


In addition to an aggressive scheme, Randolph credited the fact that he has a safeties coach in Josh Conklin as a factor for his growth this spring as a player.

"It helps us a lot," Randolph said. "It helps us get critiqued more so you can get the little things down. We have more one on one time with our coach. I think it's for the better."

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