Some UT walk-ons could get rare stage at Saturday's Orange and White game

Jancek: 'We'll be pretty vanilla'

MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL
Tennessee offensive line coach Dan Mahoney gives instruction to quarterback Nathan Peterman during a practice drill on March 14.

Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2013

MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL Tennessee offensive line coach Dan Mahoney gives instruction to quarterback Nathan Peterman during a practice drill on March 14.

Here’s a not-so-bold prediction: One of Tennessee’s standouts on Saturday won’t be a household name. There won’t be a feature about him in the game program. There’s a good chance he’ll be a walk-on.

Tenuous depth has made coaches cautious about injuries. An audience of tens of thousands in the stands and watching on television has made them cautious about revealing too much of their schemes.

The result will be an Orange and White game, like many spring exhibitions around the country, that relies heavily on players who might not be in the starting lineup come August. But it also means coaches have an opportunity to reward their walk-on warriors with a rare day in the spotlight.

“We’ll be pretty vanilla,” defensive coordinator John Jancek said about the game, which begins at 2 p.m. at Neyland Stadium. “But I think you’re going to see a good product.”

Some of the potential spring-game heroes could be more than one-day wonders.

Receivers coach Zach Azzanni was openly disappointed about the progress of his unit this spring and acknowledged that not all the current walk-ons would survive the cuts and make it to fall camp.

A notable exception, Azzanni said, is second-year walk-on Sam Cranford from Nashville’s Christ Presbyterian Academy. Cranford could even start on Saturday.

“He’s actually one of our most consistent receivers, as a walk-on. It doesn’t matter that he’s a walk-on,” Azzanni said. “He’s dropped some passes here and there, but he’s also got thrown into the fire when he didn’t think he was going to. I’m pleased with the way he responded. He’s been a solid contributor, and I want him to stick around.”

Another walk-on who could play significant snaps is reserve offensive lineman Jacob Gilliam, a fourth-year player from Knoxville.

“Jacob’s really made some strides this spring that I’ve been encouraged with,” said offensive line coach Don Mahoney. “You’ll see a lot of him.”

With Marlin Lane suspended, Alden Hill and Tom Smith are the only two running backs behind starter Rajion Neal, who is likely to play sparingly on Saturday. Walk-on Deanthonie Summerhill also could get a lot of snaps.

“He’s a smart kid,” said running backs coach Robert Gillespie. “If you’re not one of the most athletic, strongest, fastest out there, you have to do the little things right. He asks really good questions in the film. He watches film like he’s a starter. And that shows up.”

Two of the team’s four scholarship tight ends are out with injuries, giving more opportunities to walk-ons like Alex Ellis and Charles Folger, both of whom have made nice catches in practice in the last week.

Tennessee coaches readily acknowledge that the team that takes the field on Saturday may not be ready for prime time. But they hope fans notice the change in “culture” that’s been ingrained during the last three months.

“They won’t a perfect product out here on the field,” Azzanni said. “I just want everyone to see improvement, a different attitude in kids, and a different culture of doing things.”

First-year coach Butch Jones, who has urged fans to turn out in large numbers Saturday, said the team is eager for the audience.

“I really think our fans are going to like this football team,” he said. “I think they’re going to see a football team that’s going to give their all for Tennessee.”

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

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Comments » 18

Agamemnon writes:

I would make it but my round trip would be about 18,000 miles. That's a bit too far for me. :)

hateNCloveTN writes:

546 round trip

CroKev writes:

in response to Agamemnon:

I would make it but my round trip would be about 18,000 miles. That's a bit too far for me. :)

You've got me beat (I'm around 11,000 miles).

I guess the whole world is turning orange...

VolinSippi writes:

1200 mile round trip. We are coming from the Mississippi gulf coast.

therightstuff writes:

Wow, I thought my 40 mile round trip was gonna be a pain.......

jjsteel writes:

15 miles for me

elbtenn#502977 writes:

Driving up from Bham.

oldvol59 writes:

Makes the trip from the Tri Cities look short, less than 200 R/T. Hope the Tri Cities shows up in force and that I 81 and I 40 into Knoxville is so jammed with those going to the game that the State Troopers can't pull anyone over! :)

tonyvick#213307 writes:

Really? Walk-ons? Why am I not excited to hear that?

RockyTop1_old writes:

I am 220 miles into ENEMY territory (Madison, AL.).......GO VOLS!!!

antonio14313 writes:

in response to KnoxVegas88:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

30,000??? i wanna BUST THE RECORD!!! :) go vols!

t

cyclonevol87 writes:

in response to oldvol59:

Makes the trip from the Tri Cities look short, less than 200 R/T. Hope the Tri Cities shows up in force and that I 81 and I 40 into Knoxville is so jammed with those going to the game that the State Troopers can't pull anyone over! :)

This Tri Cities Vol will be there!!

Hounddog writes:

Hounddog plans on being kidnapped by 12 French Poodles, blindfolded, and tied to the whipping post; then a 1200 mile round trip! I'll be there.

Let's play a little football. Hounddog

6972 writes:

Azzinni's comment is both honest and painful. The receivers have got to get it together or the running backs are going to have a REAL tough time. Best wishes to every unit.

golfman1975 writes:

in response to antonio14313:

30,000??? i wanna BUST THE RECORD!!! :) go vols!

t

OK...I am visiting some little green men on Mars...Scottie is going to beam me down for the game...envy me.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to RIGHTISBETTERTHANLEFT:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I doubt that, but you can always dream, troll..

givehim6 writes:

I say play the walk-on's, For one it will give them a reward for for working well in practice. Two help shade UT's game plan for the rest of the SEC. Three may get the attention of some of the starters to work harder.

a

VFL_Troll_Patrol writes:

I live in Huntsville Ala-bummer. Im leaving out at 5:30 A.M. can't wait! GBO

"A new leader" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4xteY...
*Im always watching*

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