Devrin Young was welcomed back to contact in big-time fashion.
The way the freshman handled the physical play as a scout-team running back seems to have gotten Derek Dooley thinking about a much more prominent role.
Despite missing all of training camp with a broken collarbone that also has forced the Bearden High School product and possible special-teams weapon to sit out the first two games for Tennessee, Dooley is at least entertaining the notion of giving Young his first live work in one of the most hostile environments in the country at No. 16 Florida on Saturday (TV: WVLT, 3:30 p.m.).
"I don't know, but he's doing good, he got hit today, which is good," Dooley said after practice on Tuesday morning. "I think A.J. (Johnson) body-slammed him. We put him on scout-team running back, so he can go in there and get some licks. He catches the ball well. I told him I would probably be called the dumbest coach in college football if I put him back there in the Swamp.
"But I'm thinking about it, yeah. It isn't the first dumb thing I've done, so I'm not scared. I don't have to catch it."
The Vols (2-0) don't seem to have any concerns about Young's ability to do that, particularly since part of the appeal during his recruitment was the boost he could provide to a return unit that struggled mightily a year ago just to field the ball.
Young has been able to work on that aspect of his game over the last couple weeks as he recovered from the injury suffered just before training camp opened last month, but the opportunity to prove he could withstand some physical punishment had largely been on hold.
Without Young available early in the season, the Vols have turned to another true freshman to handle the work in the punting game with some mixed results. Marlin Lane has picked up 23 yards on five official attempts, though he had one chance to build his average up nullified by a penalty last weekend in the win over Cincinnati.
But Lane also has a muffed punt to his credit, so if Young is able to prove he's ready to take shots from some defenders that aren't teammates, Dooley might have a difficult decision to make against the Gators (2-0).
"Not one thing (can ease my mind)," Dooley said. "I know he can catch punts, I know he's quick and elusive, he's been hit, nothing will ease my mind until he goes out and catches one.
"I don't know what I'm going to do."
Moving On: The first touchdown allowed had obvious room for improvement for Daryl Vereen.
The UT linebacker was intimately involved in the next score for Cincinnati as well, though there might not have been much he could have done differently.
After missing a tackle on a 65-yard scamper by Bearcats running back Isaiah Pead, Vereen also was in the area for the next touchdown UT allowed on a pass to the back of the end zone. And while his coverage was sound on the second score, both plays tested his resolve and ability to bounce back over the final three quarters.
"Yeah, it's short-term memory, really," Vereen said. "You can't be down the rest of the game, because then you'll stay down. I just tried to forget it as soon as it happened and just kept moving on."
Turn It Up: The Vols have cranked the volume on the practice field.
But no matter how loud Dooley turns up the speakers at Haslam Field, he's not expecting it to measure up to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
"You can't simulate the Swamp," Dooley said. "I mean, I think Cincinnati played 'Rocky Top' all week, and crowd noise, but you can't simulate it. And, really, all the crowd noise does is it helps you have to verbally communicate things when you can't hear and it keeps you focused in on what you need to be focused on.
"That's why I say you've got to get scars on you. You've got to go down there and do it, and then it doesn't affect you as much."
Bumps And Bruises: Safety Prentiss Waggner was in a red, non-contact jersey after falling on his shoulder during practice on Sunday, but he's expected to be ready to go against the Gators.
Left tackle Dallas Thomas was limited some with his knee sprain, but he's also still anticipating playing this weekend.