Before he watched Melvin Goins embark on his first football practice since freshman year of high school, Tennessee coach Derek Dooley corralled the former UT point guard and offered some optimistic words of encouragement.
“I looked at the stats, 1.7 steals per game,” Dooley said after Tuesday’s practice, the fifth of the spring. “I told him he’d make all-conference if he keeps up that pace in football.”
Goins, wearing an orange No. 7 jersey, worked with the secondary and didn’t face contact in his first practice with the Vols. He could see some hitting by the end of the spring, Dooley said, but Goins’ immersion will be evaluated “day to day.”
“I thought it was better for him to come out here now and get a little feel,” Dooley said. “We’re not going to throw him out there in the fire and then after spring, maybe he can decide if he wants to really invest in it.”
Asked if he saw the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Goins as a safety or a cornerback, Dooley laughed.
“I see him as a point guard right now,” Dooley said. “I can tell you, when we play three-on-three, he’s on my team. We’re going to be good when we get into the offseason three-on-three hoops tournament.”
Goins was not made available to reporters after Tuesday’s practice. On his Twitter account, Goins thanked UT fans for their support and wrote that it “felt good to be back on the gridiron.”
Goins’ eligibility to play basketball expired at the end of the season, but he potentially could be eligible for a waiver to play football in 2011. In 2009, Greg Paulus, after playing four consecutive years of basketball at Duke, transferred to Syracuse and played one year of football for the Orange.
Former UT sprinter Evander Wells tried out for the team last season, but he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the process.
“I felt bad, but at least he didn’t have any eligibility left,” Dooley said. “So watch out, Melvin.”
Goins, who is set to graduate in the summer with a degree in sociology, would have to enroll in graduate school to be eligible.
Goins, a San Diego native, spent his freshman season at Ball State before he transferred to Mt. San Jacinto (Calif.) Junior College in 2008. Goins averaged 7.9 points and 2.8 assists per game and started 33 of 34 games this past season.