UT practice from Thursday night
The coaches might not be saying it, but the players are starting to feel it.
Questions continue to buzz around the Tennessee football depth chart with the first game of the season one week away. Just because nothing has been formally announced regarding the depth chart, though, doesn’t mean opinions haven’t been formed.
At wide receiver, a slew of veterans and newcomers are jockeying for prime reps. Everyone from returnees Pig Howard, Devrin Young, Cody Blanc and Vincent Dallas to redshirt freshman Jason Croom to freshmen Marquez North and Paul Harris are shuffled around daily.
Howard took a stab at the depth chart following Thursday’s practice.
“I would say, right now, Coach kind of flips us in and out with the ones and twos, but so far, I know Marquez is the permanent X right now and I am the W,” said Howard, a sophomore who caught 13 passes for 54 yards and a touchdown last season.
“At the end of the day, it’s not a final decision, but from my point of view, I know Marquez is at X and I’m at W,” Howard said.
As of late, coaches have mentioned Young as slowly firming up a spot with the first team.
“He’s at the A and at times if I move wide, Devrin will come in at W,” Howard said.
Despite Howard’s view, what’s seen on the field varies wildly from time to time.
During one four-wide offensive set Thursday, Croom and Howard were joined on the first team by wideouts Jacob Carter, a redshirt junior, and Josh Smith, a freshman.
When the second team emerged, Young, Blanc and North took the field, while tight end Brendan Downs was the fourth receiver.
Punter problems:Thursday was another erratic day for the punters, especially Matt Darr.
With coach Butch Jones watching steps away, Darr shanked one punt off the side of his foot and sent a humpback line drive over the heads of sideline spectators. The ball one-hopped over the Haslam Field fence and onto Pat Head Summitt Street — a first this preseason.
Magnifying Darr’s struggles was a new face in Trevor Daniel from Dickson County High School. The walk-on freshman was with the team in the spring, but not the preseason. On Thursday, he returned and struck punts consistently.
The Vols are still looking for a safe backup option to senior Michael Palardy.
Lane (somewhat) closed:Running back Marlin Lane wore a green non-contact jersey again, but participated in more on-field drills than he had early in the week.
Wiesman returns:Offensive lineman Dylan Wiesman returned to full action after limping noticeably in Monday’s practice. The freshman has emerged as a viable backup behind UT’s deep group of linemen.
“He’s right back in the swing of things,” said senior center James Stone. “He brings the mentality you want from an offensive lineman. He’s physical. He’s locked-in. He’s a smart kid who wants to get better.”
On the sidelines:Defensive end Jacques Smith, tight end Joseph Ayres, receiver Ryan Jenkins and linebacker Christian Harris spent practice working out on the sidelines.
AP!:Any concern the Vols could look past Austin Peay and Western Kentucky before a Week 3 meeting against Oregon needn’t stretch to the coaching staff. During stretching drills, players typically respond to each whistle with “Win!” in unison.
Jones switched it up Thursday. At his request, players instead yelled, “AP!” on the whistle. “We’re only worried about Austin Peay,” Jones preached.
Seven make All-SEC teams:Early Thursday, UT linebacker A.J. Johnson and offensive lineman Antonio “Tiny” Richardson were named to the All-SEC preseason first team by the league’s coaches. Offensive linemen Ja’Wuan James and Zach Fulton and defensive lineman Daniel McCullers landed on the second team, while Palardy and Stone were named to the third team.