While I haven't posted much about fall practice (mostly due to there being 4 days of work without pads or contact), but there was a lot of positive feedback from the work through Monday. It wasn't just coachspeak, either. I've been following the Volunteers since I can remember, and I can't recall this kind of talk from players before. This team sounds just like that - a team. In the past, it's been the parts, not the whole. This fall it sounds different. And then, today, a kick to the nuts, a shot to the gut, and many other painful attacks to sensitive areas of the body. LaMarcus Coker, speed extraordinaire, was suspended indefinitely today after his 3rd positive drug test, which was marijuana from what sources have said.
Coker led the Volunteer football team with over 600 yards last season, and was considered the most dynamic playmaker on the UT offense going into 2007. He averaged over 6 yards per carry last season, and Coach Cutcliffe was working with him in different spots to get him the ball more, specifically, work as a slot receiver.
Just four days ago, Volquest had an exceptional story on LaMarcus chocked full of quotes from Coker about his maturity. Things like:
"I've got to be more consistent in everything, not just football."
"Coming into college, you've got a lot of freedom, and there's a lot of distractions. It took a little time for me to adjust and mature. As far as the football thing, of course you're going to mature on the field quicker. Off the field, I had to take into consideration that I am here to go to school and start zeroing in on doing those things."
"It's time to focus on the new season. People make mistakes and things happen, but my main focus is always going to be to do things right. I'm never going to focus on doing things wrong."
Even his roommate Ricardo Kemp bought into it. "I'm telling you. He's so much more focused this year," Kemp said.
These quotes are from that very good Volquest article mentioned above. Coaches have praised Coker this summer and first 4 days of practice for working hard everyday.
And now this. Damnit, LaMarcus! Screw that head on straight, man!
So, how long is he out? It depends. Fulmer, at first, was quite vague, saying he just needed to fulfill his obligations to the program. How long does that take? Who knows. Fulmer's latest quote makes it a little more clear, in my mind.
"He's got to go through the process," Fulmer said. "I can't tell you whether it's going to be a week, two weeks or a month. I'm really not going to talk about it more until I know more about the whole scenario."
He says he doesn't know, but it definitely sounds like he has his own expectation for a timetable, IF LaMarcus takes it upon himself to do the work. Could he be back for Cal? Possibly, but I doubt it. If I was a betting man, and I am, I'd say we hear about Coker's reinstatement before Florida, but he doesn't play much, if at all.
The "work" Coker has to do is to attend counseling programs, then get the okay from Mike Hamilton, then face any additional consequences from Coach Fulmer. Could be into October before we see Coker on the field.
How does this effect the football team? Somewhere between a little and a lot. It's not devastating, due to the fact that Arian Foster has been a man on a mission since his costly fumble versus Penn State, and Montario Hardesty is 100% healed from his torn ACL and following surgery. Lennon Creer is the kind of freshman who can make an immediate impact.
Still, Coker made Vol fans drool in 2006 with his electrifying, untouched 80+ yard runs. All he needed was to focus, stay healthy, and he'd be an all-purpose, shoulder-the-load type running back. Now he's on the sideline, again. One thing is for sure: this is the first time I can remember where I know the team will respond well to the adversity.
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