The Vols released their Utah State week 2-deep this afternoon – a list which includes 28 freshmen and sophomores. Here are a few things that jumped out to us at each position.
1st team: Jacob Gilliam, Marcus Jackson, Mack Crowder, Jashon Robertson, Kyler Kerbyson
2nd team: Dontavius Blair, Austin Sanders, Dylan Wiesman, Brett Kendrick, Coleman Thomas
There are no real surprises here. Jashon Robertson, who worked with the defensive line to start camp, has excelled at guard since making the move to the offensive line. This is certainly the most inexperienced unit on Tennessee’s team with just six total career starts between them. Crowder started one game when Alex Bullard was suspended last season. Marcus Jackson has five career starts under his belt, but all of them came in 2011. Kerbyson, who has played both guard and tackle, recently made the move back to right tackle – he played in all 12 games last year and in seven games in 2012, which makes him the second-most experienced player on the offensive front behind Jackson.
1st team: Justin Worley
2nd team: Nathan Peterman OR Joshua Dobbs
Jones ended any suspense about the starting QB job when he named Worley as the starter on August 14th. Though Peterman and Dobbs are bracketed backups, Peterman has been receiving the vast majority of second-team reps the last few weeks of practice and would likely be the first QB off the bench this week.
1st team: Marlin Lane
2nd team: Jalen Hurd
As we saw last year – when starter Rajion Neal racked up 215 carries in 12 games and Marlin Lane got 101 carries in 11 games– two running backs will get plenty of work in Tennessee’s offense. Lane would have been given a heavier workload last year but his conditioning limited him at times. Look for him to start as long as he’s healthy this year, but also look for the gap in total touches between Lane and Hurd to shrink as the season progresses. Based on our observations at practice, Devrin Young will be the No. 3 back and should get his share of touches in various formations. Freshman Derrell Scott would likely be the No. 4 back if he’s healthy.
1st team: Ethan Wolf
2nd team: Alex Ellis OR Daniel Helm
Ethan Wolf has had a terrific fall camp. He’s trimmed down since spring and has been a consistent performer throughout the summer. The staff feels comfortable with him as a blocker and a receiver, so don’t be surprised if you see a ton of Wolf this Sunday when the Vols take the field. Behind him, Helm is more likely to play in sure passing situations, though Alex Ellis is no slouch with the football. Brendan Downs, who started 11 games last season, will likely be relegated to situational duty and A.J. Branisel could be in line for a redshirt after injuring his knee last year. Don’t expect to see either of them on the field for significant snaps against Utah State.
1st team: Marquez North, Von Pearson, Pig Howard
2nd team: Jason Croom, Josh Smith, Josh Malone
Tennessee’s leading pass catchers from last year in yards (North) and receptions (Howard) will anchor the starting unit and electric playmaker Von Pearson will join them. North and Pearson figure to play outside with Howard seeing more time in the slot, but the staff will move them around and ensure that they see snaps at numerous positions. Croom and Smith are both greatly improved from last season and will see plenty of action – especially when the Vols come out in four-wide formations. Having 5-star freshman Josh Malone on the second team shows you just how stacked the Vols are at receiver. Vic Wharton, who is a little banged up and not listed this week, should also see the field if healthy. All told, the Vol receivers in the 2-deep have 32 career starts under their belt which makes them one of the most experienced units on the team.
1st team: Corey Vereen, Jordan Williams, Danny O’Brien, Derek Barnett
2nd team: LaTroy Lewis, Dimarya Mixon, Owen Williams, Dewayne Hendrix
Derek Barnett gets the nod as a starter at defensive end in the more traditional, though lesser used, 4-3 look. The freshman certainly made the plays throughout the summer to back up his coaches’ decision. After a solid summer, Corey Vereen looks to build on a solid freshman campaign and turn the corner into becoming an all-around SEC end on the other side after a solid summer. Dewayne Hendrix and LaTroy Lewis add depth at the position, but expect to see a lot of Curt Maggitt lined up on the end as well – especially in the 4-2-5. Jordan Williams and Danny O’Brien give the Vols some leadership and limited experience on the inside at defensive tackle while newcomers Dimarya Mixon and Owen Williams will hope to use their strength and speed to add some playmaking ability to the tackle position.
1st team: Jalen Reeves-Maybin, A.J. Johnson, Curt Maggitt
2nd team: Dillon Bates, Colton Jumper, Chris Weatherd
This unit – and perhaps the entire defense – is lead by senior and All-SEC middle linebacker A.J. Johnson and hybrid LB/DE Curt Maggitt. Johnson tallied 106 tackles last year and Maggitt looks poised to provide the Vol defense with a much needed pass rush after sitting out last season, regardless of where he lines up. Chris Weatherd is likely to see a lot of snaps on passing situations as he has shown that he has the ability to disrupt the quarterback consistently on blitzes thanks to his blazingly fast first step and effort when pursuing the quarterback. Reeves-Maybin will be the Vols’ first choice at outside linebacker when Maggitt puts his hand in the dirt and lines up at end, but freshman Dillon Bates is picking things up very quickly and has the skill set that should allow him to see the field early and often.
1st team: Cam Sutton, Devaun Swafford, Brian Randolph, Justin Coleman
2nd team: Emmanuel Moseley, Todd Kelly Jr., LaCarrell McNeil, Michael Williams
Things aren’t always as they seem and I think that is exactly the case when looking at the two-deep at CB. Justin Coleman is listed as the starter opposite of Cam Sutton, but the reality is that the Vols are likely to open up in a nickel package against Utah State and will likely remain in it for the majority of the game. That would put Emmanuel Moseley or Mike Williams lined up at the opposite corner from Sutton with Coleman filling the role of the slot defender when the Vols switch to five defensive backs.
Brian Randolph and Devaun Swafford seemed like obvious choices at safety given what we saw in the summer, but don’t count out the hard-charging Todd Kelly Jr. as a possible replacement for Swafford if he were to struggle. TKJ has been coming on very strong lately and is likely to see a lot of snaps this season.
Punter: Matt Darr Kicker and Kick-Off: George Bullock OR Aaron Medley Punt Return: Cam Sutton, Devrin Young Kick Return: Devrin Young and Evan Berry Long Snapper: Matt Giampapa, Ethan Wolf Holder: Patrick Ashford, Matt Darr
Matt Darr has put together an exceptional fall camp and looks like a player who is ready to fill the punting void left by Michael Palardy. George Bullock and Aaron Medley will likely split kicking duties all season with Bullock handling kickoffs and Medley taking most of the field goal attempts. Neither player has shown the type of consistency that the coaches were looking for, so if one surges ahead there is a chance that the other guy gets left behind.
Cam Sutton will get the first crack at punt returner and the sophomore certainly has the ability to change a game with a big return. Sutton had a 70+ yard return for a touchdown back in the spring, so fans should expect some excitement when he goes back to field the ball. Devrin Young and Evan Berry will give the Vols some more game-breaking potential at kick returner in the Vols’ dual-returner set. Devrin’s had a very consistent camp fielding the ball and Berry possesses the stride and speed that make him a threat to take it the distance if he can find the crease.