When it came time to finally make a decision, Devrin Young wasn’t quite ready for a debut.
Now with two extra weeks of work to his credit since being cleared for contact and making himself an option on special teams, the freshman from Bearden is poised to at last step on the Tennessee stage.
After some indecision about using Young at the first opportunity at No. 12 Florida, Derek Dooley left little doubt about his intentions with a second chance to turn him loose in a non-conference date with Buffalo at Neyland Stadium on Saturday (TV: CSS, 12:30 p.m.).
“We’re going to play Devrin, we’re going to play Devrin,” the Vols coach said after practice on Wednesday morning. “He’s going to get an opportunity to get out there, and we’ll see how he looks, how he feels, and how he does (decides) how much.”
After not getting any action against the Gators following his first week as a full practice participant since fracturing his collarbone before training camp, Young is slated to finally get some and make an appearance the Vols (2-1, 0-1 SEC) have been waiting to see.
Dooley didn’t tip his hand on any specific plans for Young, and he wouldn’t even indicate whether UT would use him on kickoffs or punt returns — or both. The Vols have him listed at each position on their updated two-deep as they prepare for the Bulls (1-3, 0-1 MAC), but all that really seems certain at this point is Young will get more chances than he had against the Gators.
“Well, he had never practiced, that was really the first week he was back, so he hadn’t been hit,” Dooley said. “I mean, he hadn’t practiced a lot of catching, he didn’t know our stuff. It sounds good, just throw him in there and see what happens, but it’s not fair to the player to put him out there before I think he’s ready.
“We feel like he’s got enough work in to go do the things we’re asking him to do. We’ll see. He’s going to play, I know you guys want to know how we’re playing him, but we’re going to figure that out on Saturday.”
The Vols have him bracketed with fellow freshman Marlin Lane at the top of the depth chart for both kickoffs and punts, and while Dooley and special teams coordinator Eric Russell weren’t divulging much information, there appears to be one less guy standing in the way of playing time for Young.
With wide receiver Justin Hunter out for the season after tearing ligaments in his knee, UT looks as though it will be cautious with its other big target and no longer use Da’Rick Rogers to bring back kickoffs. And if Young is able to provide the kind of production it anticipated when it signed him, there might not be a need to consider moving Rogers back to that role again, either.
“I just want to see Devrin come out and catch it, run fast and where he’s supposed to without the hesitation and the doubt,” Russell said. “Run with conviction and let’s see what you can do, kid.
“I don’t think the Swamp is where you want to throw a guy in to get his first hit in college football. And the situation, he’s never been in that — this Buffalo game will be the biggest pressure situation he’s been in his whole life. We have no idea how he’ll react to that.”
The Vols have been waiting patiently to find out, and they’re expecting an answer shortly.
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.