Freshman receiver Jason Croom will make his Tennessee debut Saturday against Georgia State, coach Derek Dooley said Wednesday.
Croom’s return from a lingering hamstring injury could help ease the Vols’ depth shortage at receiver. Another freshman receiver, Alton “Pig” Howard (foot), is perhaps a week or two away from returning.
“We’re expecting (Croom) to play,” Dooley said. “I wouldn’t say he’s 100 percent, but we feel like he’s back.”
The Vols (1-0) play the Pantherson Saturday (TV: PPV, 4 p.m.) at Neyland Stadium.
* The Panthers were routed 33-6 by South Carolina State in their season opener last week, but Dooley has resolutely avoided any question that the Vols might be readying backups and younger players for extended playing time on Saturday.
“I’m not even worried about that,” Dooley said. “We need to go out there and play our best, no matter who our opponent is. If we ever get in that situation, we’ll do it (worry about playing reserves).”
* Dooley said first-game communication with his new staff wasn’t an issue at the Georgia Dome. More broadly, he thinks his coaches — despite the heavy offseason turnover — are all on the same page.
“I think it’s fair to say that there’s no member of our staff that isn’t committed to the same purpose, the same goals and doesn’t believe in how we’re doing things and what we’re doing,” Dooley said. “Staff unity leads to team unity, so that’s important.”
* Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said the Vols’ defense created so many turnovers that he kept getting poked by other coaches. They had to keep reminding him, “Hey, you’ve got the ball again.”
On a serious note, Chaney said he would support a new NCAA rule requiring all future Tennessee opponents to have at least four turnovers per game.
* The no-huddle offense may be in vogue in college football nowadays, but Chaney said it’s nothing new.
Chaney said he used the no-huddle occasionally when he was at Purdue and can even remember using it in the early 1990s when he was at Cal State Fullerton.
“We aren’t inventing anything new here,” Chaney said. “We just think it helps us, and we’re going to try to do it better.”
* Chaney said the revamped offense’s only requirement for quarterback Tyler Bray is that he talk less, something that was easy for him to handle.
“He doesn’t have to get in a huddle and verbalize a lot, which he would rather not do sometimes,” Chaney said. “He just has to look for a signal and look for an open guy. It simplifies the game for 11 people, not just the quarterback.”
* Not much attention is being paid to Georgia State’s personnel this week, but the Panthers’ quarterback situation is unsettled going into Week 2.
GSU coach Bill Curry said Ben McLane, a redshirt freshman who won the starting job, was only “sore” after being banged up in the opener.
Curry has yet to announce whether McLane or backup Kelton Hill would start against Tennessee.
* GSU kicker Christian Benvenuto has been reinstated from his suspension for an offseason bar incident. Benvenuto’s replacement struggled in the opener.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.