The University of Tennessee released its pre-fall practice football depth chart today ahead of Friday’s first practice in Knoxville.
See that full Tennessee football depth chart HERE.
Here are some of my observations and thoughts on the Tennessee football depth chart going into the start of 2013 fall practice. The post below includes position battles to keep an eye on throughout fall practices, as well as freshmen on the depth chart and scholarship players that aren’t listed. You will see quite a few guys that aren’t on the two-deep depth chart, so don’t sleep on them just yet.
Plenty can change until the opener for the Volunteers, Saturday, August 31st vs. Austin Peay at Neyland Stadium at 6pm ET on PPV. In the meantime, it’s fun to discuss until we see the players again on the field.
Vinny’s Vibe on the Vols – Tennessee Depth Chart Analysis
TRUE FRESHMEN ON THE DEPTH CHART
LT (2nd) Brett Kendrick
WR (2nd) Paul Harris
WR (2nd) Marquez North
CB (2nd) Malik Foreman
CB (2nd) Cameron Sutton
TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS OFFENSE (12 positions listed)
Justin Worley’s name shows first ahead of Nathan Peterman but it’s listed as an OR because this is still a competition. Interestingly, neither freshmen, Joshua Dobbs nor Riley Ferguson is listed. I thought they might be listed to enhance the appearance of competition, especially because Butch Jones has stated it will be an open equal competition and that he’ll play the individual that gives them the best chance to win regardless of age or class. One of the freshmen will have to be special or Worley and Peterman would both have to be bad in practices for a freshman to start the Austin Peay game. The athleticism and upside of the freshmen will be tempting for the coaches. Bill O’Brien at Penn State says it’s exciting to work with young quarterbacks because you can mold them and teach them and don’t have to break as many bad habits. Will that be the case here? Worley representing UT at the pre-practice press conference says something as well. Worley is the favorite to start the season at quarterback. Still, this is the top story of fall practice.
Alex Bullard is listed as the starter. That’s not a position Bullard has locked down, but he will continue to try to hold-off 2nd team Marcus Jackson, who has starting experience. This is the only position battle on this outstanding (and likely the SEC’s best) offensive line.
Right Guard/Right Tackle
The fact that Kyler Kerbyson is listed as the back-up at both spots tells me the coaches feel pretty good about him as the 7th offensive linemen. It also tells me they still don’t feel comfortable with the depth beyond that. I promise you, that’s something Butch Jones and the coaches will talk about in the preseason. Zach Fulton and Ja’Wuan James are the no-doubt-about-it starters at guard and tackle respectively.
At left tackle, of course, Antonio Richardson is the starter with true freshmen Brett Kendrick as the back-up. At center, it’s no surprise that James Stone is shown as the starter and competent Mack Crowder listed behind him.
Wide Receiver (3)
Jason Croom (XWR), Cody Blanc (ZWR) and Pig Howard (Slot WR) are 1st team. The two freshmen listed as an OR behind Cody Blanc (Paul Harris and Marquez North) tells me that that’s the biggest competition spot among the receivers. I think Croom will hold-on to his spot as long as he stays healthy. Vincent Dallas is listed behind Croom at that outside wide-out position. The slot with Pig Howard is up for grabs as well (and don’t rule-out true freshman Ryan Jenkins,) but Howard has more experience at the position and he has play-making ability that they can use in the offense in a variety of ways, including in the run game. Howard has to improve his ball security though.
Brendan Downs is the #1 TE. He has the most experience and blend of skills for the position. Blocking TE Joseph Ayers #2 and pass catching threat JUCO TE Woody Quinn at #3 are behind Downs. Quinn will impress in camp, earn playing time and eventually be one of the leading receivers for the Vols this season. I’ve heard numerous comparisons to Butch Jones’ TE at Cincinnati, Travis Kelce, who is now in the NFL. Maybe it’ll take a year to become that, but the opportunities will be there with half-way decent quarterback play and no other proven pass-catching threats in the offense.
Rajion Neal is the starter with Alden Hill as the back-up. Marlin Lane is one of the two-best backs in this very thin position. There are only four scholarship running backs at the moment. This seems like continued motivation for Lane to do the right things and earn his way back fully from his suspension in the spring.
TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS DEFENSE (12 positions listed)
Seniors Jacques Smith and Marlon Walls earn the first team spots going into the start of practice Friday. Jordan Williams and Corey Miller are second-team. This position will definitely go well-past two-deep. There will be some true freshmen, namely Corey Vereen and Jason Carr, which will have a great chance to earn spots in the rotation and then move up from there.
Defensive Tackle/Nose Tackle
No surprise that Daniel McCullers is first team at DT. Daniel Hood gets the other first-team inside spot at the nose. Maurice Couch, 2nd team behind McCullers, was thought to maybe start with McCullers at the nose. That could still happen. Instead, redshirt freshman Danny O’Brien gets the nod at the #2 nose. The roles are reversed with the interior linemen based on what you typically see for their size. The lighter weight guys Hood/O’Brien are more of the plugger-types (Nose) while the much bigger guys are more of your quick/penetrate the line guys (Tackle.) These are the positions that help teams win big in the SEC. These are must watch positions, in my opinion.
Biggest surprise to me is that Curt Maggitt is listed at second team behind Brent Brewer at the SAM (strongside) linebacker position. Does that mean he’s still not healthy after off-season surgery and all the injuries from last year? Does the coaching staff, who admittedly hasn’t really seen him practice yet, want him to earn his way back while rewarding a senior in Brent Brewer? Maggitt said he was still about 85% not that long ago, which was a concern at the time so close to the start of camp. If he’s second-team because he’s still not ready and he starts camp in a non-contact jersey, Tennessee fans should be concerned. He HAS to be great, along with A.J. Johnson for this team to be much-improved on defense. Maggitt at the SAM is odd. He’s more of a WILL (weakside) linebacker in skill-set that plays with physicality near the line of scrimmage that also can run and chase sideline-to-sideline. We’ll see if this changes during camp. It could be a temporary listing. It will be worth monitoring.
Spring stand-out and special teams veteran Dontavis Sapp drew plenty of praise in the spring from coaches. He’s 1st team here. The fact that he’s a starter isn’t the surprise. Not having Maggitt as a starter moves Sapp over to the WILL closer to the line of scrimmage with more run responsibility. That’s far from ideal with his size. Problem is, Brewer is a converted safety and is much more suited to the SAM linebacker spot that calls-on more pass-coverage skills covering tight ends and playing in space. Kenny Bynum, who was a one-time commit to Butch Jones at Cincinnati, is 2nd team behind Sapp.
A.J. Johnson is the unquestioned starter here. Redshirt sophomore Christian Harris is listed #2. Coaches want more tackles for loss and consistency from Johnson. He needs to have his best season. This defense needs him to dominate and intimidate.
The starters at corner are Justin Coleman and JUCO transfer Riyahd Jones. The coaches rode Jones pretty well in the spring, but that’s because they know he has talent and is the most able to help immediately. Two true freshmen that weren’t around in the spring already show-up at second team, Cameron Sutton and Malik Foreman. Those two guys have different builds but both bring speed and athleticism to the table that this defense desperately needs an infusion of. The nickelback spot is JaRon Toney first team and Geraldo Orta second team. This is a position that you could see a freshmen slide into if it gets exposed either in camp or early in the season.
LaDarrell McNeil listed ahead of Byron Moore is a mild surprise, not in ability but just on experience. I think McNeil can still be outstanding despite his fair-share of mistakes last year. He’ll be one of the more improved players on this defense with better coaching and simply knowing his assignments. He fits the strong safety position because we’ve seen him come-up in run support very well. I wouldn’t rule-out true freshmen Jalen Reeves-Maybin getting some snaps as well, unless he’s still not healthy after missing spring ball.
Brian Randolph is back from his devastating knee injury in the Florida game last season. They were cautious with him in the spring. Jacques Smith told me Randolph is a guy that not enough people are talking about that will be an impact player on this year’s defense. Max Arnold is listed #2 but will be a long-shot for meaningful snaps.
TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS SPECIAL TEAMS
As expected, Michael Palardy is first team in all three kicking duties. Matt Darr is the 2nd team punter, while redshirt freshman George Bullock is listed as the back-up at the two kicking spots. Can he push Palardy in fall practice, at least to handle kickoffs? Kickers doing well in practice guarantee nothing. It all changes when the stands have fans and the lights are on. We’ve seen this far too much at Tennessee in recent years, great in practice but inconsistent to poor in games. It will be interesting to see if a staff that shows confidence in him leads to more consistency from Palardy.
Punt Returner/Kickoff Returner
Devrin Young is first team with Pig Howard second team in both return game roles. If Pig can hold on to the football, he’ll get the most opportunities. Howard has the potential to be even more dynamic in the open field, in my opinion.
No breakdown here. I just don’t want to leave these guys out. Frankly, you should know who they are now rather than just when they possibly screw-up. Tyler Drummer returns to hold while J.R. Carr returns as the long snapper. If the depth chart changes here, we’ll be sure to let you know.
SCHOLARSHIP PLAYERS NOT LISTED ON THE DEPTH CHART (34)
QB – Joshua Dobbs (Fr)
QB – Riley Ferguson (Fr)
RB – Marlin Lane (Jr)
RB – Tom Smith (Jr)
WR – Jacob Carter (RS Jr)
WR – Drae Bowles (RS Fr)
WR – Ryan Jenkins (Fr)
WR – Johnathon Johnson (So)
WR – Josh Smith (Fr)
TE – Justin Meredith (RS Fr)
TE – A.J. Branisel (Fr)
TE – Justin King (So)
OL – Marques Pair (Jr)
OL – Alan Posey (RS So)
OL – Dylan Wiesman (Fr)
OL – Austin Sanders (Fr)
DT – Allan Carson (RS So)
DL – Trevarris Saulsberry (RS So)
DT – Greg Clark (RS Jr)
DE – LaTroy Lewis (RS Fr)
DE – Corey Vereen (Fr)
DE – Jason Carr (Fr)
DE – Malik Brown (Fr)
DE – Jaylen Miller (Fr)
DE – Kendal Vickers (Fr)
LB – Channing Fugate (Sr)
LB – Raiques Crump (Sr)
LB – John Propst (Sr)
LB – Greg King (RS Sr)
LB – Gregory Grieco (RS Jr)
DB – Naz Oliver (RS Sr)
DB – Tino Thomas (RS Fr)
DB – Jalen Reeves-Maybin (Fr)
DB – Lemond Johnson (Fr)
*(Note) Scholarship players are based on the Knoxville News Sentinel’s most recent list of scholarship or walk-on player listings. These are subject to change by the coaching staff.
This post has been updated after UT released an updated roster with a few tweaks.
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