The decision to move Vincent Dallas from receiver to cornerback happened so suddenly that the equipment staff didn’t even have time to stitch his last name to the back of his new orange jersey.
When junior cornerback Riyahd Jones ambled off the practice field on crutches, it became clear why the position switch became so abruptly necessary.
If the injury to Jones is significant as it appears it might be, the already precarious depth at cornerback will be even thinner.
Moving Dallas is one way to try to stem the bleeding.
In another move not directly related to Jones’ injury, freshman safety Jalen Reeves-Maybin worked at outside linebacker on Monday. Many thought that Reeves-Maybin might eventually move to linebacker in 2014. But coaches are apparently toying with the idea in 2013.
Coaches cautioned that both moves were experimental and that coach Butch Jones would have final say on all personnel matters. Jones isn’t scheduled to speak to the media until Tuesday.
“We’re trying to develop some depth at (cornerback),” said defensive coordinator John Jancek. “Vincent has experience there, so we’re taking a look at it.”
Dallas was a reserve receiver in 2011 as a freshman, but switched to defensive back last summer. After going through the entire camp on defense, he switched back to receiver in late August. (That move could have been prompted by the loss of Da’Rick Rogers, who was kicked off the team just before the season). Dallas caught nine passes for 149 yards in 2012.
No players spoke to the media after practice on Monday, but Jancek said Dallas was receptive to the move.
“He was more than willing,” Jancek said. “(He’s a) great kid, very attentive, listened, picked up a couple things.”
As for Reeves-Maybin, coaches were even more cautious in discussing the move, describing it as “experimental.”
As recently as this spring, defensive backs coach Willie Martinez had vowed that he wouldn’t let Reeves-Maybin be snatched away from him. But other needs may have won out.
“He’s a very smart player, and he’s got good size,” Jancek said. “I think his natural fit is going to be at linebacker as we move forward. He’s only going to get bigger and we need some help at that position. He’s a guy that I would say has the skill set to play all three positions (at linebacker).”
Neither linebacker nor safety is as pressing a worry for the Vols as the cornerback spot.
If Riyahd Jones misses all or part of the season, it’s almost a certainty that a freshman — likely Cameron Sutton — will start and play a significant role in the defense.
Buried behind bigger names and more highly rated recruits in the 2013 signing class, Sutton has been impressive during the first two weeks of camp. He was the first newcomer to have the black stripe on his helmet removed, and Butch Jones has praised him regularly.
“Cam has been balling out,” starting cornerback Justin Coleman said last weekend. “He’s doing the things that cornerbacks need to do: Catching picks, doing everything right.”
Riyahd Jones, a junior college signee who arrived this spring, was expected to hold down one of the starting spots. Butch Jones will likely address his status on Tuesday.
After Monday, the cornerback position has only Coleman and many questions.