Practice set to start; depth chart nearly wide open

Before Tennessee can battle Western Kentucky, UCLA or Florida the Vols have to battle themselves.

That begins Tuesday when coach Lane Kiffin’s leads his first UT football squad onto the practice field.

The squad reported back to campus Monday. Everyone who was expected was accounted for by late afternoon.

Kiffin has sent out the preseason mission statement loud and clear:

Unless your name is Eric Berry, you’re in a fight for your job.

That might be a slight overstatement for the sake of motivation. Still, the point is that Kiffin and his staff — none of whom were here in 2008 — are open-minded about establishing a depth chart between now and the Sept. 5 opener.

“Every position is going to be competitive,’’ senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton said. “That’s what Coach Kiffin strives on.

“The competition only makes you better. If you don’t have it, you’re not going to get any better.’’

That being true, a bunch of guys have a chance to get better because a number of jobs are legitimately up in the air.

It’s always tough to predict how quickly freshmen can get up to speed, but Kiffin likely will be willing to fast-track several newcomers in order to upgrade UT’s talent level.

“We’ve got some young guys that are going to play,’’ Crompton said. “Where at, we don’t know yet but we’re going to get ‘em on the field some how some way.’’

Here’s a look at some intriguing position battles that shape up starting today:

Offense

- Quarterback: Crompton starts with at least a slight edge over Nick Stephens, if for no other reason than Stephens was limited by an injury in the spring.

Both posted similar numbers last year. Crompton completed 51.5 percent of his 167 attempts for 889 yards. He had 4 TD passes and five interceptions.

Stephens hit on 48.5 percent of 130 attempts for 840 yards. He had four TDs and three picks.

- Center: Josh McNeil has made 35 consecutive starts, yet walk-on (for now) Cody Sullins won’t go away.

Is this a legit fight or are the coaches just trying to keep McNeil hungry?

- Right tackle: Jarrod Shaw emerged from the spring at the tentative top of the depth chart. He and William Brimfield have identical resumes: Their only career experience was in the same two games last year, UAB and Mississippi State.

Redshirt freshman Aaron Douglas will weigh in at some point.

- Tight end: Jeff Cottam deserves a healthy senior season, but has caught only four passes in three years. Luke Stocker caught 13 balls last year as a sophomore.

Cottam is bigger by two inches and 20 or so pounds. That could matter if UT wants to pound the rock.

- Tailback: Senior Montario Hardesty averaged a modest 3.6 yards per rush in 2008 but was UT’s best back in the orange zone, scoring a team-high six touchdowns.

All eyes are on freshman Bryce Brown, UT’s headline recruit. Tauren Poole (22 carries for 86 yards in ’08) is the forgotten man and faces a challenge to change that status.

- Receiver: Gerald Jones and Quintin Hancock are locks to get on the field. Another safe bet is that at least one true freshman, likely Nu’Keese Richardson, will defy UT tradition at this position and contribute.

Brandon Warren’s conversion from tight end is a story line of interest. Opportunity knocks.

Defense

- Tackle: Wes Brown earned his stripes at end, but now moves his surgically repaired body inside to tackle.

What a help it would be if true freshman Montori Hughes proves his impressive spring wasn’t fool’s gold.

Freshman Marlon Walls will be watched with great anticipation.

- Middle linebacker: The options are undersized-but-tough Nick Reveiz or redshirt freshman Herman Lathers with zero game experience. Or some newcomer.

- Strong linebacker: LaMarcus Thompson has been a special-teams regular for two years but never an every-down linebacker.

He’ll face several challengers, including Savion Frazier and freshmen like Jerod Askew, as the staff tries to find the best starting combination.

- Cornerback: This appears to be a fluid situation with Brent Vinson and Dennis Rogan battling on one side and Art Evans and Marsalous Johnson on the other. At least one freshman should be in the mix.

- Free safety: The only certainty is there be a youngster here. Sophomore Stephaun Raines is the old man in a group that includes redshirt freshman Prentiss Waggner and newcomers Janzen Jackson and Darren Myles.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2009, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2009 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 71

IBleedOrange444 writes:

Hey Mike, did Marlon Walls qualify? Last I heard he had not yet made it through the clearinghouse?

Cldvols1 writes:

Ugh, those QB numbers still make me sick! However, besides that I expect a drastic turn around from last year. Go Vols!!!

HollySpringsVOL writes:

Its show time. Get at it! GO VOLS!

bearbull95#206250 writes:

There will be some pleasant surprises along with some unexpected rough ones, but I think we'll wind up practice with an SEC-strong, competitive team starting the season. Some of the freshman came here with something to prove. Some of the older players have something to prove, also. They will. Go Vols!

IBleedOrange444 writes:

in response to IBleedOrange444:

Hey Mike, did Marlon Walls qualify? Last I heard he had not yet made it through the clearinghouse?

I guess nobody knows. Would someone with some press credentials please find out for me?!? Can't be that hard. Ask one of our coaches, or someone at Hargrave, or Marlon himself. Geeez!

mdvol writes:

Is Chris Donald still on the team and is he not an option at LB? This guy was 5 star???

ArealVolFan writes:

Anyone know if these practices are open to the public?

belayvol writes:

in response to IBleedOrange444:

I guess nobody knows. Would someone with some press credentials please find out for me?!? Can't be that hard. Ask one of our coaches, or someone at Hargrave, or Marlon himself. Geeez!

Marlon has not cleared as of yet. It could be any day now.

MrBamSeydu writes:

Chris Donald = Daniel Brooks

yet another over-rated TN high school star.

ThaiVolFan writes:

Looks like Chris Donald is one of those 5 star recruits who just never make the transition to play at a high level in college. I hope I'm wrong and he starts to compete at a high level. I watched him play at Huntington several times, he was definitely big and fast. He seems to have not impressed either coaching staff so far. He has the opportunity with this staff starting tomorrow.
GBO!

kjneel#238751 writes:

I see speed everywhere. Vols will shock the world. 11 wins in 2009

pdb73216#339474 writes:

How about James Green? Has he been cleared yet?

vol_in_bigten_land writes:

20 bucks says Chris Donald will be starting before the season ends.

PlaidinOrangeandWhite writes:

I was wondering the same thing with Donald. Let's hope this guy can step it up several notches.

belayvol writes:

in response to pdb73216#339474:

How about James Green? Has he been cleared yet?

Most likely will go JUCO. Does not look like he will clear.

TommyJack writes:

in response to IBleedOrange444:

I guess nobody knows. Would someone with some press credentials please find out for me?!? Can't be that hard. Ask one of our coaches, or someone at Hargrave, or Marlon himself. Geeez!

The ClearingHouse moves slower than Arian Foster.

lowman4vols writes:

in response to pdb73216#339474:

How about James Green? Has he been cleared yet?

i read a article about a week ago saying he didn't clear. maybe next year!?

SeaBass writes:

mrbummedoutsayyoudontspeakatall you hate tn athletes or ut period.you claimed you love all of the ut players but seem to have a problem with them for some reason can we not kick off these bs people off of these sites this is nothing but negative post by want to be ut fans that if they could just get the crimson off there backs.post positive or dont breath i kinda at this time reading your post today kinda leaning towards the not breathing part watcha think mrbummedoutsayyoudontspeakatall

Whiskey_Wizard writes:

Tonight, as I stare at my mason jar of Tullahoma Tea it is telling me that we need Depth on both the D Line and O Line. If anyone goes down, we are in a world of trouble. Fella's, someone won't make it through the year. Lets pray it ain't Big D Williams. Also, if a LB gets hurt, Askew will fill in b4 Donald. If that cat ain't stepped on the field and contributed yet, you can count him out. BUST. Just like that RB years ago.....I can't remember his name. GOODNESS, I gotta quit drinkin. My mind is going.
Whiskey_Wizard.

QB_10 (Inactive) writes:

Stephens to Richardson...i like the sound of that

IBleedOrange444 writes:

in response to belayvol:

Marlon has not cleared as of yet. It could be any day now.

Thanks for the update bro. Hope he makes it we could use another d-lineman bad this year.

vol_in_bigten_land writes:

in response to PerdedorVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

No suprise, since you only need a GED to play at floriduh.

mdvol writes:

in response to TommyJack:

The ClearingHouse moves slower than Arian Foster.

And often drops the ball.

VOL1SG writes:

Funny how nothing was said about Oku. He is the #1 rated all purpose back coming in this year. I think he would figure into this article as well. Here is to a year of no injuries and singing "Rocky Top" all day long.

Go Vols

txvolsfan writes:

in response to VOL1SG:

Funny how nothing was said about Oku. He is the #1 rated all purpose back coming in this year. I think he would figure into this article as well. Here is to a year of no injuries and singing "Rocky Top" all day long.

Go Vols

In the words of CLK, "After we Gay-tors in the Swamp"" It's going to be fun I guarantee it!!!"
TXVOLSFAN

TeNnVoL22 writes:

All i know is its about football time in Tennessee.GO VOLS BABY!!!

tdtnsee writes:

in response to PerdedorVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

And we care why???? Your an idiot!!!! Jackazz

pdhuff#552644 writes:

I can't wait for the roar when Crompton/Stephenson completes a crisp, well-thrown pig to a WR.

Man, it's been a while.

ThaiVolFan writes:

in response to pdhuff#552644:

I can't wait for the roar when Crompton/Stephenson completes a crisp, well-thrown pig to a WR.

Man, it's been a while.

I second that!

mlbrown5454 writes:

in response to MrBamSeydu:

Chris Donald = Daniel Brooks

yet another over-rated TN high school star.

Not every position was covered.
Donald is in the mix.

tennezz writes:

For some reason most Tenn. 5 star recruits are no better than the 3 star recruits in fla.,Georgia, Texas, and a few other states. It must be the coaching. Any ideas on this? [Lets show erbie cryer the Orange Crush defense this year]

CoachFulmer writes:

I'm most interested in the Free Safety and the Strong Side Linebacker battles besuae the players battling for them to me are mostly unknown. I can't wait to see who will compliment Berry at the FS position. May the best one prevail.

GO VOLS!

ClassicVol (Inactive) writes:

Wish we had a QB. Two duds don't count.

VOL1SG writes:

SEP 5th can not get here quick enough. On the other hand, I hope it is long enough for CLK and staff to prepare those that have not seen a lot of playing time ot be ready. I believe they will succeed and will see a hint of it against WKU. Here is to a great year in Vol Land.

99gator writes:

i hate to throw water on the fire.....

but, what competition for jobs. they barely have enough at some positions to get a starting group on the field.

the starters on o-line and d-line are starters by default.

their is competition at qb, rb, and in the secondary.

most everywhere else, if you have a pulse and put your uniform on correctly.....you will see playing time.

if you have prior experience putting on your uniform correctly, you will start.

99gator writes:

oops, there instead of their.

hueypilot writes:

in response to 99gator:

i hate to throw water on the fire.....

but, what competition for jobs. they barely have enough at some positions to get a starting group on the field.

the starters on o-line and d-line are starters by default.

their is competition at qb, rb, and in the secondary.

most everywhere else, if you have a pulse and put your uniform on correctly.....you will see playing time.

if you have prior experience putting on your uniform correctly, you will start.

And you have such extensive knowledge of every roster spot and every player at UT how, gator? On every football squad in the country, players emerge to challenge or unseat players that "everybody" thought were locks at their position. It will be the same at Tennessee where people who's names are not mentioned here will be contributors if not starters in the coming season. That is why we watch real football instead of playing video games where the rosters are set. Your insight into Tennessee football at times is interesting and at other times your superior attitude is tiresome. Don't overstay your welcome here. You are and will always be an interloper.

99gator writes:

in response to hueypilot:

And you have such extensive knowledge of every roster spot and every player at UT how, gator? On every football squad in the country, players emerge to challenge or unseat players that "everybody" thought were locks at their position. It will be the same at Tennessee where people who's names are not mentioned here will be contributors if not starters in the coming season. That is why we watch real football instead of playing video games where the rosters are set. Your insight into Tennessee football at times is interesting and at other times your superior attitude is tiresome. Don't overstay your welcome here. You are and will always be an interloper.

that's the point huey......

there are no names, known or unknown, to challenge for spots.

who is available to challenge for an o-line or d-line starting spot?

you think ben martin is being pushed for his starting spot, or anyone else on the offensive or defensive line?

buxavol writes:

It'll be an interesting month. I'm as concerned with us building depth as much as anything else.

Off topic a little, need a little info. What's the name of the steakhouse frequented by Vols fans on the West side of town, out around Kingston Pike, I think? Going to the UCLA game, want to take my son for a good steak! I've been there, but cannot for the life of me remember it's name! Thanks in advance!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

in response to TommyJack:

The ClearingHouse moves slower than Arian Foster.

Dupree told me we will miss A. Foster.

Like a cured man misses the mumps.

VolFanNC writes:

in response to 99gator:

i hate to throw water on the fire.....

but, what competition for jobs. they barely have enough at some positions to get a starting group on the field.

the starters on o-line and d-line are starters by default.

their is competition at qb, rb, and in the secondary.

most everywhere else, if you have a pulse and put your uniform on correctly.....you will see playing time.

if you have prior experience putting on your uniform correctly, you will start.

Linebacker, secondary, RB, and WR. I believe they know the starters on the OL and DL. He does want the competition to find the 2nd stringers, etc..

They do have good depth everwhere except the lines and WR's.

I am optimistic though that is the OL stays healthy they will have a much better year on O than last year, but then again couldn't get much worse.

deadheadvol writes:

in response to buxavol:

It'll be an interesting month. I'm as concerned with us building depth as much as anything else.

Off topic a little, need a little info. What's the name of the steakhouse frequented by Vols fans on the West side of town, out around Kingston Pike, I think? Going to the UCLA game, want to take my son for a good steak! I've been there, but cannot for the life of me remember it's name! Thanks in advance!

The Ye Ole Steak house is good, not sure where it is, went there once a few years back after a SC game and was well pleased, enjoy the day with your son celebrating a big orange victory, go orange

DC_Vol writes:

in response to BolivarBob:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Good one! Hiliarous! I bet he didn't see that one coming. LOL

BigOrangeScrew writes:

Te Olde Steak House
6638 Chapman Hwy
Knoxville, TN 37920
yeoldesteakhouse.com

I grew up basically next door to this place. It is very good. It is in south Knoxville, BTW.

GerryOP writes:

And so it begins...

32 -- Fear The Kiffin...

NO_DIGGITY writes:

in response to Whiskey_Wizard:

Tonight, as I stare at my mason jar of Tullahoma Tea it is telling me that we need Depth on both the D Line and O Line. If anyone goes down, we are in a world of trouble. Fella's, someone won't make it through the year. Lets pray it ain't Big D Williams. Also, if a LB gets hurt, Askew will fill in b4 Donald. If that cat ain't stepped on the field and contributed yet, you can count him out. BUST. Just like that RB years ago.....I can't remember his name. GOODNESS, I gotta quit drinkin. My mind is going.
Whiskey_Wizard.

Are you thinking about Brian Darden. He was the top Running Back in the Nation the year the Vols signed him. Here are his career stats.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/foot...

CRFVols writes:

I saw several bad reviews about the Ye Olde Steakhouse. I was thinking of going there too. Anyone here had a bad experience there?

trooper4prezz writes:

http://myespn.go.com/blogs/sec/0-8-9/...

Chris Low tweeted this yesterday. It talks about Walls and Green.

footballtime writes:

okay people Crompton needs our support!!! we are expected to suprise someone big this year and to do that Johnny needs our backing

Down_The_Field writes:

in response to 99gator:

oops, there instead of their.

trust me, that isn't the only thing you got wrong in your post.

do us a favor. if you don't watch or keep up with this team like we do, quit boring us with your uneducated observations. if you choose to continue then spare us you opinion on vascular surgery as well. if will provide us the same merit.

back to topic.....i think the o-line will be fine this year IF the coaching comes through. then it's a matter of handing the ball off. the d-line is strong on the first rotation and then seems to loose talent at 2-deep. d-line has me the most concerned about this team. this year may show us that we have been the victim of poor coaching at the o-cord level and poor talent management (i.e. remember watching jamal lewis standing on the sideline in gays-vul?).

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features