The Tennessee wish list has two entries for June.
The first is for 15 more practices, which Derek Dooley already knows he won’t be getting.
The other is for a bunch of talent to show up on campus, and the Vols coach is counting on receiving that to help add some depth to a roster that certainly could use it.
UT wrapped up spring camp with Saturday’s 24-7 exhibition win for the White over the Orange at Neyland Stadium, capping off 15 workouts that Dooley generally praised from start to finish. But regardless of how much improvement Dooley might have seen as he begins preparing for his second season with the program, he made at least one thing clear as the Vols head into the offseason.
“We’re not good enough anywhere right now,” Dooley said. “When you say compete for an SEC championship, which is what we need to be doing here in this program, it’s hard to say there’s one position that is ready to compete for an SEC championship. It’s everything — there is no one area.
“We’re improved, but there’s a long way to go. There are some areas where we feel like we’ve got enough players to continue to develop, and there are others areas where we’re going to need some help. That’s where June comes around and we’re going to have another 20 more guys pop in the door. We’ll train them all summer and see how they can fit in and help us, and we’re going to need their help.”
The Vols did benefit from some early assistance from six early enrollees this spring, including several that could be significant contributors right away. And since UT won’t be getting 15 more practices to add to those it just completed like Dooley has half-jokingly asked for, the addition of the rest of the 2011 signing class is the surest way to find more bodies that can contribute.
Justin Coleman impressed at cornerback and made two eye-catching pass breakups in one-on-one situations against Justin Hunter on Saturday, and he figures to play a prominent role in the defensive back derby UT will stage in fall camp.
Marcus Jackson wasted little time moving into the starting lineup this spring, battling at guard with returning sophomore JerQuari Schofield and holding his own thanks mostly to the power he generates with his 6-foot-2, 326-pound frame. And Vincent Dallas and Brendan Downs both showed flashes of potential in the passing game, the former as a slot receiver and the latter as a physical tight end.
But the Vols still have plenty of holes to fill on a depth chart notably lacking much of a veteran presence, which could make June a bit like Christmas for Dooley — particularly if the rising sophomore class continues to develop as scheduled at the same time.
“I think they’ve made progress, but I don’t think they grasp it right now — what it means and the intensity level, the mental intensity and the work ethic,” Dooley said. “So we’re just going to keep working on that. Hopefully over the next eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 weeks before we report, we make another jump in how we work and how we recover and our ability to sustain.
“We’re deeper than we were a year ago. I think when we get these 20 more guys, hopefully they’ll (help). The real question is going to be how many are ready to help us this year. They may not be ready the first game, but we’re going to keep developing them. I’m not sure we’re going to have where we can say we have depth until a year from now. We just don’t.”
If the Vols don’t have it now, they might at least be close in June.
Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward.