Q: When is it?
Full spring practice:
Monday, March 23 – Butch Jones Press Conference, 12 p.m.
Tuesday, March 24 – Practice #1, 4:20 p.m.
Wednesday, March 25 – NFL Pro Day, 8:30 a.m.
Thursday, March 26 – Practice #2, 4:20 p.m.
Saturday, March 28 – Practice #3, 11:20 a.m.
Tuesday, March 31 – Practice #4, 4:20 p.m.
Thursday, April 2 – Practice #5, 4:20 p.m.
Saturday, April 4 – Practice #6, 11:20 a.m.
Tuesday, April 7 – Practice #7, 4:20 p.m.
Thursday, April 9 – Practice #8, 4:20 p.m.
Saturday, April 11 – Practice #9, 11:20 a.m.
Tuesday, April 14 – Practice #10, 4:20 p.m.
Thursday, April 16 – Practice #11, 4:20 p.m.
Saturday, April 18 – Practice #12, 11:20 a.m.
Tuesday, April 21 – Practice #13, 4:20 p.m.
Thursday, April 23 – Practice #14, 4:20 p.m.
Saturday, April 25 – Practice #15 (DISH Orange & White Game – SEC Network Alternate Channel/SEC Network+), 4 p.m.
Q: Where is it and is practice open to the public?
Unless otherwise posted, all spring sessions, except the Orange and White Game, are completely closed to the public. The media will be allowed to watch portions of practice and will generally see more than we do in the fall because there isn’t as much strategy/game planning going on in the spring.
Practice is generally held on the Haslam Practice Field or in the indoor facility if weather is not cooperating. The Orange and White Game and potentially a few other sessions will be held at Neyland Stadium.
Q: Why is it so late this year?
It’s ultimately up to each coach/school when they hold the 15 NCAA-allotted practices during the spring semester. Vanderbilt, for example, started in early February and will be wrapping up this month. Tennessee opted to be the last school to start and end spring practice in the SEC.
The pros of that decision are that it’s after spring break, so there’s no distraction in the middle per se. It also gives players more time to heal from injuries that occurred during the season and a little more time in this first phase of the offseason lifting plan to get stronger before practices. But perhaps most importantly, it gives the Vols almost an exclusive spring game date on April 25, potentially helping coverage, attendance and recruiting.
The biggest con to starting late is that if a player gets injured, he will have less time to recover before the actual season starts in September.
Q: Who all is injured?
The injury list is certainly subject to change and we’ll be updating it daily, but here’s a general idea of what it will look like:
Out: DE Derek Barnett, DE/LB Curt Maggitt, LB Darrin Kirkland Jr., DT Danny O’Brien, DE Kyle Phillips, WR Jason Croom
Questionable/limited: WR Marquez North, DT Trevarris Saulsberry, TE Alex Ellis, RB Jalen Hurd, DT Owen Williams, OL Chance Hall, DL/OL Charles Mosley, LB Dillon Bates, LB Jakob Johnson, DE Corey Vereen, DB Rashaan Gaulden
Q: What positions are up for grabs?
The coaching staff will be looking for competition and depth at literally every position, but here are some of the position battles we’ll be following closely this spring:
1. Inside linebacker: Finding A.J. Johnson’s long-term replacement will be a big key this offseason. Look for a player such as Dillon Bates, who worked at outside linebacker last year, to get some reps inside this spring, joining returning players such as Kenny Bynum, Jakob Johnson and Gavin Bryant in competition. Kirkland, a promising early enrollee at ILB, won’t be able to join the true competition until the summer due to injury.
2. Offensive tackle: Really you could throw the whole offensive line into a competition as the Vols look to upgrade their weakest spot from 2014. But finding answers at tackle, in particular, will be key. Kyler Kerbyson told us recently that he’s been working almost exclusively at left tackle like he did at the end of last year, so if that remains the case, that right tackle position could be the main one up for grabs and look for players such as Dontavius Blair, Coleman Thomas, Brett Kendrick and Jack Jones to battle for time there.
3. Cornerback: Justin Coleman is gone and Michael Williams, for now, is out of the picture in the midst of ongoing legal issues. We know Cam Sutton will lock down one side. But finding a No. 2 and a nickelback will be important. Emmanuel Moseley will be a big factor in that battle. But who else? Rashaan Gaulden is an interesting, versatile player, who could help at any spot in the secondary and could get a look at nickel. Malik Foreman could also be ready for another stop. Help is on the way this summer in the form of Justin Martin, Micah Abernathy and others, but this will be a good chance for the returning players to get an edge.
4. Backup quarterback: Joshua Dobbs will be No. 1. We all know that. But getting an idea who his backup will be is a big storyline this spring. History shows that Tennessee will, in all likelihood, have to turn to a backup for some reason at some point in 2015, so the Vols must take a big step in getting one of the true freshmen – Quinten Dormady or Jauan Jennings – ready. Of course this battle won’t be fully decided until Sheriron Jones arrives this summer.
5. Receiver: Injuries (Marquez North, Jason Croom) will limit the competition to an extent, but this is the type of position battle coaches love to have. There’s a nice mix of styles, experience and skill sets in this position group, and the Vols will be looking to find the right mix of players for the rotation such as Pig Howard, Von Pearson, Josh Smith, Josh Malone and others. Finding depth will be important as well for a position that will only have around seven scholarship receivers able to go this spring. Lesser-known players such as Cody Blanc and Johnathon Johnson will have a chance to step up and carve a spot in the rotation.
– RB Alvin Kamara, DB Stephen Griffin, QB Jauan Jennings, QB Quinten Dormady, OL Chance Hall, OL Jack Jones, DE Andrew Butcher and DT Shy Tuttle are the early enrollees who are expected to practice (Kirkland and DE Kyle Phillips will be out with injuries)
– DL/OL Charles Mosley is expected to make somewhat of a debut this spring as well after missing all of the 2014 season following a car accident in the offseason