Tennessee is still serious about having its players compete for playing time.
When asked about 35-game starter Josh McNeil, coach Lane Kiffin said Thursday, "Josh is in a battle for a starting job right now. We're rotating him in there with the ones and twos, trying to push him. He's played a lot here but that doesn't matter.
"He needs to continue to improve so he can be our starting center."
Walk-on Cody Sullins is McNeil's main competition at center.
"We've been putting him in there with the ones and he's doing really good," Kiffin said. "We've got a heckuva battle going on."
Even with his long track record, McNeil doesn't mind the ongoing competition with UT's new coaching staff.
"That's definitely something you expect," McNeil said. "Pretty much there are no starters out here.
"Everybody is rotating in with the first unit so I just have to do what I've been doing since I've been here and everything will work itself out. You've got to come out here and you've got to perform everyday to make sure that you lock down that starting job."
When UT's coaches were hired, they said that 21 positions were up for grabs - the exception being All-American Eric Berry at safety.
"Competition really breeds players trying really hard and busting their butt every single rep," McNeil said. "It only makes you better."
When asked by the media if he liked his chances to win the starting job, McNeil paused, looked intently into the reporter's eyes and said one word: "Yeah."
This is by far the healthiest and biggest that McNeil has been during spring practice. The Mississippi native has been sidelined in the offseason with ankle and shoulder issues.
McNeil said he also weighs 280 pounds, the most he's weighed in spring practice. McNeil is usually lighter in spring practice but gains weight throughout the summer.
McNeil said injuries have caused him to lose weight in the offseason because he can't work out. This is the fifth offense McNeil has learned from a coordinator at UT.
Oops On Offense: Senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton threw one interception and nearly a second.
Junior defensive back C.J. Fleming dropped one pass from Crompton that should have been caught. Crompton's lone interception was returned for a touchdown by defensive back Art Evans.
It appeared that Crompton and receiver Austin Rogers had a miscommunication on Evans' interception, as Rogers never looked for the ball. Evans also blocked a field goal.
Nick Stephens, who is still trying to overcome a broken wrist on his right, throwing arm, fumbled a snap but picked up the ball and completed a 14-yard pass to receiver Brandon Warren.
Stephens had a pass batted back toward him by defensive end Gerald Williams a few plays later.
Practice Points: Warren is still without his jersey number but turned in a couple of nice plays. The most impressive came when the junior reeled in a pass near the goal line and managed to get one foot in bounds for the completion.
Injury Report: Offensive lineman Vladimir Richard did not participate. He was accidently kicked in the head by a teammate during Tuesday's practice.
For Kicks: Daniel Lincoln missed two mid-range field goals and had one blocked before nailing a 46 yarder. Punter Chad Cunningham was acting as the holder.
Passing The Knowledge: UT hosted about 300 coaches, mostly from high school, during practice on Thursday. More are expected to arrive throughout the weekend.
Kiffin spoke to the group on Thursday evening. The rest of UT’s coaches speak to the group today. Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will address the coaches on Saturday morning.
Drew Edwards contributed to this report.