There's really only one way to identify the first-team linebackers at this point.
Just look for LaMarcus Thompson.
Tennessee might be starting to get healthier in the middle of its defense, and the senior outside linebacker has had a few more familiar faces around him lately during non-contact drills.
But in any live situations Thompson and the Vols might face in their sixth practice of the spring this afternoon, the rest of the cast is a little bit tougher to predict with the top of the depth chart still rehabbing from surgeries or working out on the side.
"You know, it's been interesting," Thompson said. "Guys are back there and starting to get healthy, and Nick (Reveiz) and Herman (Lathers) are getting some small reps, but nothing real live. It gets other guys better and gets them in the rotation more, gets them to learn more, so when we go into the season and injuries do happen - that's unfortunate but it will happen - it will be easier to adjust than it was last year.
"Last year was definitely kind of hard."
The Vols are still feeling the effects from it at linebacker, a position that kept the training staff in business almost by itself with a rash of injuries that decimated the defense.
Reveiz was lost in September to knee surgery, and though he's aggressively pushing to get back on the field more, UT is still monitoring the middle linebacker and trying to limit his reps. The same is true for Savion Frazier, who filled in for Reveiz then went down in nearly identical fashion.
And though Lathers has started to work his way back into the rotation, the Vols picked up more to worry about when Greg King, already hampered by elbow surgery, left practice on crutches last week after apparently re-aggravating a left knee injury.
That basically leaves Thompson as the only known quantity, and if nothing else gives new UT coach Derek Dooley a chance to experiment and try to create some depth.
"I hope so, that's how you've got to treat it," Dooley said. "We can't control the fact that (so many linebackers) are out. I'd rather everybody be healthy and we develop the guys who were real productive last year, but we can't do that. (This is) the next best thing.
"I always feel like you've got to prepare like, 'If we were playing today, what would we do?' You'd better be ready for it, and it is a good opportunity for those guys to learn."
The younger guys at least still have one regular with them in full-contact situations, and Thompson has tried to provide as much support for them as possible.
He's been quick to point out how impressed he's been with the transition Austin Johnson has made back to linebacker after playing fullback a year ago. Thompson has singled out junior Daryl Vereen for stepping up over the last couple practices as well, and freshman Jerod Askew has emerged as another candidate to possibly contribute in the fall also.
It figures to get more difficult for them to do it when the more recognizable names return, but for now they're fitting in just fine with Thompson.
"I thing it has been good so far," Thompson said. "Of course there's work to do because it's a new defense, but it's coming along and we're all coming along fine. We're getting our fits and adjustments, and all we've got to do is keep working and watch film and we'll be all right.
"Of course being a person that has been in the battle and played before, you've got to talk to the guys that really haven't been there and teach them how to cope with whatever's going on and manage the game. I just give them a word of advice, that's all it is."
At least for a while longer, the first-team around him can still use the help.