By Will Woodbery, Correspondent
KNOXVILLE — With Tennessee entering its first day in pads of spring practice, defensive back Demetrice Morley had better reason than most of the Volunteers to feel rusty Tuesday.
It had been more than a year since he had last suited up and taken the field.
But that extended hiatus didn’t seem to affect him.
“I just felt really good out there, and I’m happy to get the first step out of the way,” said Morley, who was readmitted to the university in January, one year after being dismissed for failing to meet academic standards.
Morley worked at Calhoun’s restaurant as a bus boy to finance his way at Pellissippi State to regain admission.
“It’s been a year and a few months before I put on the pads and the full helmet and really got contact in. I was excited today,” the junior from Miami, Fla., said. “When I was in class today, that was all I was thinking about.”
As a freshman in 2006, Morley started 10 games at strong safety and recorded 51 tackles and two interceptions.
Glimpses of that ability were on display Tuesday.
“He did get a pick in teamwork there. He looked like a streak going down the sideline,” coach Phillip Fulmer said. “It’s good to see him out there.
“He’s still got to take care of his business,” Fulmer added. “He’s fortunate to be back out here by the good graces of our university and me. He’s got a second chance, and I expect him to take advantage of it.”
A grateful Morley seems intent on doing just that.
“I’m just working hard,” he said. “I’m just happy to be back.”
Back to fundamentals
Fulmer made clear Tuesday his main goal for spring practice was hammering home the basics. A group of offensive linemen at the end of the practice learned that the hard way, with Fulmer personally overseeing their board drills.
“They’re soft. They’re soft 300-pounders,” he said. “They should be big, ugly, tough guys. Right now they’re not very tough. They’ll get better.
“There’s a considerable difference in the guys that have played and the guys that are trying to earn a position, although there are some guys today that you could tell are trying to push forward. A few guys got knocked on their butt, but they got back up and fought. And that’s a good sign.”
Praise for Poole
Volunteers running backs coach Stan Drayton said Tuesday he has high hopes for freshman tailback Tauren Poole.
“Poole’s going to be a good football player,” Drayton said. “He’s still young. He’s got a lot to learn. What he’s bringing to the table right now is work ethic and effort. ... He’s a very focused kid. He wants to be good. He’s going to be a very special kid around here someday.”
Fulmer likewise took notice of the “courageous” aspect to Poole’s play.
“There are some guys like Tauren Poole who don’t back down from anything. It’s their innate toughness,” Fulmer said.
Ja’Kouri to play
Fulmer said Tuesday tailback Ja’Kouri Williams, who previously intended to graduate in the summer, will play with the team.
“If all works out, he’ll stay on in the fall,” Fulmer said.
Out of action
Linebackers Rico McCoy and Ellix Wilson did not practice Tuesday “because of academics,” Fulmer said.
E-mail Will Woodbery at firstname.lastname@example.org