Butch Jones met with the media on Wednesday, but he’s treating it like the beginning of the week. With the Vols taking the field in five days against Georgia Tech, Jones said that the team is treating today as a Monday with the unique game week approaching.
Here’s notable information from Jones’ first game week presser.
It was initially feared that Josh Smith would be out for a significant period of time, but the senior wide receiver practiced yesterday. Smith suffered an AC joint injury a week ago, but practiced yesterday according to Jones. He is questionable for the first game of the season despite reports saying that he could miss up to six weeks initially.
Darrin Kirkland Jr. had surgery on his torn meniscus on Wednesday morning. He will at least miss the first game, but Jones says there is no timetable at this time for his recovery.
“I give that young man a lot of credit,” Jones said about his starting middle linebacker. “Football means everything to him. It was non-contact, and that’s the game of football unfortunately. He was very disappointed but not discouraged. It’s very disappointing, obviously. But he means a lot to our football program and to us. I expect him to bounce back and be better for it.”
Freshmen making an impact
Jones had a lot of good things to say about Josh Palmer on Wednesday. The freshman wideout will see a lot of playing time during Tennessee’s season opener. Jones expects him to be a big part of the Vols offense all season.
Jones went into detail about Palmer, sharing the story of how the Florida native came to Tennessee.
“I don’t know if anyone truly understands his story. He defines competition,” Jones stated. “He grew up in Canada and he always dreamt about playing college football. He moves to Florida with a family member, and he has a one hour commute each way, everyday. He has two ‘four and five stars’ ahead of him. He didn’t play the first four games of his high school career.
“One guy gets hurt, he goes in there and the rest is history. The resolve, the resiliency — it’s a long football season. Everything is about how you handle adversity.”
To no one’s surprise, Trey Smith was listed as the starting right guard. In addition to Smith and Palmer, Latrell Williams was the other freshman listed as a starter on the Vols’ initial depth chart.
Lots of -OR-
Yes, Tennessee released a depth chart on Wednesday. But that doesn’t exactly tell us very much. The Vols have nine ongoing position battles listed as “OR” on the depth chart.
That includes the quarterback position, where Jarrett Guarantano and Quinten Dormady are still listed as co-starters.
“That competition could go all the way down to pregame warmups,” Jones said.
The other ongoing competitions include left guard, linebacker, free safety, longsnapper, kicker and three battles at wide receiver.
“I think it’s a complement to competition,” Jones said. “It’s these individuals understanding that when you go out on the football field, you’re putting your competition on video. We want these individuals competing. As we all know, I don’t look at it as a starting 22. We need anyone and everyone.”
While it may not be getting the same publicity as other position battles, Jones said that the kicking battle is as close as any other competition on the roster. Freshman Brent Cimaglia has impressed the coaching staff throughout fall camp. Jones expects to use him early and often.
“Kicker is as big a competition as the quarterback position,” Jones claimed. “Aaron Medley is being pushed everyday. That’s another competition that will go down to probably game time. We may kick two kickers based on the distance of the field goal we’re attempting.”
Jones also announced that starting left tackle Drew Richmond will be suspended for the Georgia Tech game due to a violation of team rules. Senior Brett Kendrick and sophomore Marcus Tatum will be the Vols’ tackles to start the season in Richmond’s absence.