If a clear path to a starting job was the goal, Malik Jackson probably picked the wrong program.
Tennessee might have some holes on its roster, but they certainly aren't at defensive line.
That doesn't mean the summertime transfer from Southern California won't win a gig when camp opens for the Vols on Wednesday, but as Jackson's new position coach reiterated over the weekend, it won't be easy considering where he'll be lining up this fall.
"Malik has an opportunity to be a great player here at Tennessee, just like everybody else does," defensive line coach Chuck Smith said. "But these guys aren't coming in here conceding anything to Malik Jackson - nor were there promises made to Malik Jackson. He's a good player who wants to develop, and he came here not just because of me or any particular person, he just liked the school and he wanted an opportunity.
"I think people might get it misconstrued that, 'Oh, Chuck recruited him or (coach) Derek (Dooley) called him.' Malik wanted to be here, and he's a guy that's going to help us, man. He just needs to do his job. He doesn't need to be Superman. He doesn't have to be the star."
It might have helped if he could be a tackle though, a spot which will likely be as thin to open the season as end is stacked for the Vols.
Expectations are high for a group led by seniors Chris Walker, Gerald Williams and Ben Martin, and the future also appears bright with true freshmen Corey Miller and Jacques Smith also primed to make an impact. Smith has also touted sophomore Willie Bohannon as a possible playmaker up front, and the addition of Jackson gave the former UT standout one more weapon at his disposal.
There still isn't much between all those bookends though, and the situation looked even more precarious when tackle Marlon Walls was suspended indefinitely after the Bar Knoxville brawls last month. The sophomore will likely return to the team and rejoin Montori Hughes on the interior of the line, but that represents just about all the meaningful experience UT will have to balance the veterans outside them.
"I'm happy (at end), but I'm also happy across the board," Smith said. "You can only coach what you've got. I mean, the ends are clearly - because they're a little more senior-laden - there's no question they don't take a backseat to anybody across the country. And with Marlon not being here right now, we have to hold our own. But are we sitting here crying? No.
"If guys do their job and play their position, we'll have a chance to be successful. Even if we had eight first-rounders on the line and could do that, if they don't do their job, play with passion and leverage and smart, it doesn't even matter. There's no question we're more equipped right now with the bodies at defensive end than at tackle, but all of them are developing. You can't cry about it, you just have to teach those guys to get better and win."
That process will pick back up again this week, and for Jackson it's surely not where he expected to be after two seasons with the Trojans.
If he was looking for a fresh start, he'll find it with Smith and the Vols. If it was guaranteed playing time, that's no sure thing at defensive end.
"We've got (Martin) and (Walker), Jacques and Corey have bright futures, and don't forget about Willie Bohannon, a guy who's going to be a great player, going to make lots of plays," Smith said. "I just need (Jackson) to be one of the components of a unit that plays as a unit and plays hard, plays with technique and plays with passion.
"I think Malik will have an opportunity to reach every goal he's ever wanted to reach in his football career. It's just a matter of starting with Chapter One, then we've got to go to Chapter Two."
It's almost time to officially crack that playbook.