The helmet stripes continue to come off for some of Tennessee’s talented batch of newcomers this fall camp. The symbolic gesture, meaning that the newcomer has proven himself to his older teammates and the coaching staff, is used as a motivational tactic and as a way to show which newcomers might be ready to help this team in 2015.
Case in point: The first four to lose their stripe in 2014 were DE Derek Barnett, RB Jalen Hurd, CB Emmanuel Moseley and TE Ethan Wolf – all of whom had a really big freshman campaign last year.
Five total newcomers this year – including four true freshmen – have lost their stripe as of Tuesday morning. Here’s a look at who has and why that is with a quote from Butch Jones about their performance at some point during camp.
RB Alvin Kamara: The first newcomer to lose his stripe, Kamara has met, if not exceeded lofty expectations for him after transferring to UT from Hutchinson Community College after first spending his freshman year at Alabama. Kamara, who had a great spring as well, is poised to be share the running load with Hurd this season, with many considering him somewhat of a 1B option in the backfield.
Butch Jones: “Offensively, an individual who is really starting to insert himself is Alvin Kamara. He has really become the voice of the offense. We need individuals to step up and embrace. The leadership. Leadership is influence and difficult, especially in times of need.”
DE Kyle Phillips: Somewhat of the forgotten highly-ranked recruit on the defensive line with Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle stealing a lot of the attention, Phillips has consistently gone about his work this fall after missing the spring with an injury. The depth chart is a bit stacked against him with the likes of Derek Barnett and Curt Maggitt in front of him at defensive end, but the Vols will find a role for Phillips this year, and like him enough that he was the first true freshman to lose his stripe.
Butch Jones: “I have been really, really excited [about Phillips]. I know we are all excited about him. It’s his work ethic, his attitude, his demeanor, his style of play.”
DT Shy Tuttle: Another spring enrollee who showed some good things then and has carried that over into the fall. The “other” top defensive tackle alongside Kahlil McKenzie in this class, Tuttle got in better shape over the summer and is picking up on the defense. He turned heads around the nation when he put then-projected starter Marcus Jackson (before his injury) on his back in a one-on-one drill early in camp. He had a similar rep against Coleman Thomas during the Orange and White Game during the spring.
Butch Jones: “He’s stepped up and made his presence felt.”
WR Jauan Jennings: The talented athlete from Murfreesboro worked at quarterback in the spring, but was several steps behind some of the competition there in terms of overall mechanics. Some offseason uncertainty at receiver opened up an opportunity for him to try that position out in the fall, and he’s taken full advantage of it, running good routes, showing good hands and even a physical streak that should make him a capable special teams player and run blocker on the perimeter as well.
Butch Jones: “I’m excited about Jauan. He’s kind of sipping through a firehose right now at the wide receiver position. I see an individual who is a very, very gifted athlete. Very, very competitive. Very, very good hands and loves to compete.”
QB Quinten Dormady: The Texas native showed up in spring looking college-ready, throwing the ball with good velocity and accuracy and showing a frame that looked more like a third-year player than a true freshman who should’ve been in high school at that time. He’s improved this fall as well and Butch Jones recently named his as the backup quarterback behind Joshua Dobbs.
Butch Jones: “Quinten continues to get better and better through repetitions. He is very, very competitive and is playing with a lot of confidence right now. You can see it. Really, to me, his biggest maturation has been in terms of leadership. Quinten has been more vocal than he has ever been. He is holding others around him accountable.”