Vikings Add Former Packer Za’Darius Smith
Tennessee opened up its spring practice on Monday working in helmets only on the Haslam Practice Field. The Vols were without six scholarship players who will be out the entirety of the spring.
Defensive backs Kamal Hadden, Warren Burrell, Brandon Turnage and DeShawn Rucker as well as tight end Miles Campbell and linebacker William Mohan are out with separate injuries, a Tennessee spokesperson confirmed to Rocky Top Insider.
Burrell is the only one of the six that started for Tennessee a season ago, but Turnage and Hadden both earned playing time as the season developed and all four of the defensive backs are in line to earn major playing time this fall.
Tennessee lost its two best defensive backs from last season’s team — Alontae Taylor and Theo Jackson — and Hadden and Turnage are in prime position to earn major roles in defensive coordinator Tim Banks’ second defense.
Rucker earned limited playing time as a freshman last season while battling injury. The Florida native has speed in the back-end that the rest of Tennessee’s defense doesn’t possess.
The injuries present depth issues to Tennessee’s defensive backfield this spring.
“The player loads on those guys every single day, you need to track what they are doing, you make sure if guys are having to double back on reps that you are giving them the proper amount of time to rest in between so they can go out and play and compete,” Heupel said Tuesday. “At this point, we are not worried about cutting any of the reps that we normally would have. We feel like, at this point, we are in a position to continue to get the reps that we wanted.”
The spring injuries will provide opportunities for Doneiko Slaughter, Christian Charles and others this spring.
Mohan played special teams only after transferring from Michigan last offseason while Campbell earned a limited role in his freshman season. The Vols return their top four linebackers and tight ends from a season ago.