KNOXVILLE -- When Channing Fugate stepped on the University of Tennessee campus in January 2009, he needed an attitude adjustment.
"I was a little bit finesse in high school at running back," the Volunteers' sophomore fullback said after practice Friday afternoon, "so I had to come in here and get kind of a mean attitude. A fullback's got to have that; they've got to have that tough attitude."
The 6-foot-1, 250-pounder who talks with a rural Kentucky drawl is more than just a typical bruising fullback, however. He said it took him into preseason camp last year to become comfortable as a blocker, after running for 3,052 yards and 36 touchdowns at Breathitt County (Ky.) High School.
UT offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has said Fugate can be a valuable weapon with his running background and ability to catch passes.
"In high school I played running back, and I think he's seen when they recruited me that I can do some extra things like that," Fugate said. "I just need to be good at fullback so I can do other things. That's what he told me: 'Just get good at fullback, and we'll let you do some more things.' I told him that was good with me."
Fugate started the final five games last season as a freshman. He said he had to embrace the physicality of collision after collision with linebackers and defensive linemen, but that now is his biggest strength.
"I don't want no linebacker to blow me up, so I try to blow him up," he said. "I know if I just stick my face in there it ain't going to hurt."
After mostly positive post-practice comments the first three days of camp, head coach Derek Dooley had a slight change of tune Friday.
"After four practices," he said, "[we're] not a very good football team, but we've got a lot of good-looking football players out there, and probably the most important thing we can do is learn how to endure and overcome adversity when it hits us."
After three split-squad practices, in which UT's veterans and newcomers practiced separately, the Vols were all together for the first time Friday.
Dooley attributed Friday's struggles to the poor handling of adversity, a common theme for the Vols last year when they lost all three games in which they were tied or down one score entering the fourth quarter.
"That's going to be a real challenge for this team being so young, and when bad things happen, how do we handle it?" Dooley said. "We didn't handle it well last year. What we have to do is learn how to overcome being behind and bad things happening and not be a front-running football team. That's going to take some time."
Sophomore Dontavis Sapp, who's been a backup at safety and played special teams, now is working at linebacker.
"He looks pretty good in there," Dooley said. "He's instinctive, he's big and he gives us another body in there. It's good because he can play and sub at safety, so he's got a little hybrid in him."
Texas LB commits
UT added a fourth linebacker to its 2012 recruiting class Friday afternoon with a commitment from Dalton Santos, a 6-2, 245-pound inside linebacker from Van, Texas. Santos, the Vols' 13th commitment for 2012, is a four-star prospect according to ESPN and 24/7 Sports and a three-star player per Rivals.com. He had scholarship offers from Alabama, Michigan and Arkansas and picked UT over Texas A&M.
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...