April 1, 2008

Stocker rising as Vols' tight end

With departures due to both graduation and injury, sophomore tight end Luke Stocker is seeing a lot of work this spring. More reps and improvement in his game have the Kentucky native smiling on most days when he exits the practice field.

"It's a great opportunity for me," Stocker said. "The biggest difference is all the reps I'm getting due to Jeff's (Cottam) injury."

As a backup last season, Stocker caught two touchdown passes and made several key blocks on the Vols' way to Atlanta. This season he's feeling much more confident knowing he's atop the depth chart.

"Last year I was behind Chris (Brown) and Brad (Cottam)," Stocker said. "Jeff and I know that it's time to step up and become leaders. My fundamentals have really gotten better. I'm better at my route-running and run-blocking."

First-year tight ends coach Jason Michael sees a lot of potential in the 6-foot-6, 240 pounder.

"I think Luke has progressed this spring," Michael said. "I think the experience he gained last year has carried over and now he needs to maintain that and use it to his advantage."

A new depth chart and offensive coordinator Dave Clawson bring a new offensive philosophy. Those prospects are tantalizing to Stocker.

"I did all this before as a freshman," Stocker said. "It's a number system and everything goes together, but the challenge is learning as we go along because every day there is something new. I like the offense though because I've seen a lot of balls this spring."

In the first full scrimmage of spring practice last Saturday, Stocker caught one pass for 7y ards and a touchdown. This Saturday marks scrimmage No. 2 and both Stocker and Michael want to see continued growth.

"I'm trying to grab this opportunity and run with it," Stocker said. "It's the opportunity of a lifetime and I want to take full advantage. I have to continue to do the small things like using the correct technique. I need to work on finishing my routes and finishing off my blocks."

Added Michael, "I think the biggest thing is taking what we work on individually and put it to use on the playing field and practice field. If he continues to work and improve, he'll get better every day."

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