Staff Photo by Patrick Smith Tennessee freshman running back Bryce Brown tries to break through Western Kentucky defenders during Saturday's game at Neyland Stadium.
KNOXVILLE -- Tailback Bryce Brown was expected to make a large immediate impact, but another Tennessee freshman outdid him in the season opener Saturday.
And Brown did well, running for 104 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries.
But wide receiver Marsalis Teague was the only first-year player in the Volunteers' starting lineup and had game highs with six receptions covering 86 yards.
Teague caught the last of Jonathan Crompton's career-high five touchdown passes, hauling in a 5-yard fade early in the fourth quarter.
"You just never imagine your career -- your first game -- starting like this," Teague said. "I just can't believe it. I'm just blessed. That was so much fun. And we won the game, which is the biggest thing."
First-year head coach Lane Kiffin praised Teague's consistency.
"I thought Marsalis, especially, was not a freshman today," Kiffin said. "He did not look like a freshman."
Teague hadn't played receiver until preseason camp last month. The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder played quarterback for Paris High School in West Tennessee.
"As a receiver, a lot of times with freshmen, you see them line up wrong and the quarterbacks have to move them around, or they're false-starting, or they're not on the line of scrimmage when they're supposed to be," Kiffin said. "But Marsalis was extremely impressive, especially for him to start and all the pressure with that.
"It's easier to be Bryce. Bryce gets to come in after a couple of carries, after Montario (Hardesty) has got them going."
Big Brown scare
Brown scared coaches and teammates in the first half by staying on the ground after a play and grabbing his knee.
"I thought I'd torn my ACL or something," he said. "I was so worried."
So were his teammates.
"I said, 'You better not be hurt, or I'm going to get mad and really hurt you,'" fellow freshman tailback David Oku said. "That's my boy. He doesn't need to go around scaring me like that."
Added Teague: "I just kept saying, 'Get up, big boy. Get up.' It's too early for that stuff."
Another of UT's highly touted newcomers, receiver Nu'Keese Richardson, muffed Saturday's first punt-return chance.
The diminutive Richardson got two more chances. He finished with 30 yards on three returns, the longest going 19 yards.
Junior Dennis Rogan dropped back to return the punt immediately following Richardson's miscue, but Kiffin said Rogan was scheduled to return all punts near the goal line.
"We went back to (Richardson), because that's our philosophy," Kiffin said. "Guys are going to mess up, especially freshmen. We're not going to pull them at that point and not put them back in. We're going to help them get through those things.
"And you saw him get more confidence as the game went on."
LaMarcus not lacking
UT junior strongside linebacker LaMarcus Thompson said he was "a little nervous" all week leading up to his first varsity start since high school.
Maybe he should always worry a little bit.
Thompson had five tackles, including a game-high three stops for loss.
"The jitters went away after kickoff," said Thompson, an Atlanta-area native. "When you go out there and you know you're prepared, and you know you can play fast because you know your assignment, it all takes care of itself."
Junior middle linebacker Nick Reveiz wasn't surprised by Thompson's debut, despite his friend never having been on a UT varsity defensive play before.
"LaMarcus and I came in the same year, and we both played on the scout team as redshirt guys, and I've always thought LaMarcus was an awesome player," Reveiz said. "He hasn't gotten to play any linebacker until now, but I feel like he's already making the most out of this opportunity. He had an exceptional game."
Guard Cory Sullins, a former walk-on, did most of the playing at left guard after fellow senior Vladimir Richard left the game in the first quarter.
Richard's Achilles' tendon has been sore for weeks, but the injury likely wouldn't have kept him out of a close game.
Senior defensive lineman Wes Brown played about 30 plays on his sore knees.
"I feel good," Brown said. "I'm going to be sore, of course, but I can't complain about it. I'm fixing to go put about three or four bags (of ice) on them. It's an everyday deal."
Brown said coaches "probably" had a plan to limit or at least monitor his playing time, but he didn't want to know the details.
"I want to be out there as much as I can," he said. "I'm sure they have a plan of what they want me to get accomplished."
UT senior center Cody Sullins, originally a walk-on like twin Cory, blamed himself for the few exchange problems he had with Crompton in the first quarter.
"I was sweating like crazy, and I didn't have a towel on me," Sullins said. "They got me one really quickly, and we didn't have any more problems after that."
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