Position switches are one of the more intriguing story lines of spring practices each and every year. And according to Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt, there will be at least three Vols playing a different position to start spring practices.
Tyler Byrd, Carlin Fils-Aime, and Ja’Quain Blakely are all switching positions for at least the first week of spring practices.
“We actually have several guys that probably are going to work at different spots for the first half of spring and then see where it’s at,” Pruitt told 247Sports. “We’re going to give them an opportunity to play another spot if we don’t feel comfortable with where they’re at.”
Byrd will switch from wide receiver and play “somewhere in the secondary” and he’ll be joined by Carlin Fils-Aime who will switch from running back to cornerback. Blakely will be making an opposite switch, moving from defense to offense. He’ll move from defensive end/linebacker to tight end.
“Jay Blakely is going to work at tight end in the spring for the first seven days, and we’re going to see where he’s at,” Pruitt stated. “Then he’ll possibly move back to defense. Tyler Byrd is going to work somewhere in the secondary for the first seven days, and then we’ll re-evaluate. Carlin Fils-Aime is going to work in the secondary for the first seven days. We’re going to work him at corner.”
Byrd played corner and receiver in high school and was recruited primarily as a cornerback by most schools. But Butch Jones and his staff moved Byrd to receiver as a freshman, and he flashed his potential as an athletic play-maker in his first year, catching 15 passes for 209 yards and running the ball eight times for 63 yards. He also returned 10 kickoffs for an average of 26.3 yards per return.
But Byrd was barely used last season and only touched the ball five times on offense. He did score his first career touchdown, but that was about all the impact he had.
Coming out of high school, Byrd was rated as the No. 10 corner in the 2016 class according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Fils-Aime, who was Byrd’s teammate at Naples High School, didn’t play corner in high school and has been exclusively a running back at Tennessee. He served as the Vols’ third string back last year and was the primary backup when Ty Chandler got the start against Kentucky when John Kelly was serving a one-game suspension. Fils-Aime ran for 215 yards and two scores on just 31 carries last season as a sophomore.
Blakely redshirted his first year on Tennessee’s roster in 2016 and totaled two tackles in nine games last year. He played primarily on special teams last season.
Pruitt would go on to add that he views the defensive ends on the roster who were recruited to play in Bob Shoop’s defense as outside linebackers in his defensive scheme. So players like Jonathan Kongbo, Darrell Taylor, and others may be switching positions this spring as well.