Tennessee Football: Predicting the Two-Deep Depth Chart
As we head into Tennessee spring practice, which begins March 26th, there are a few positions that are still up for grabs on the two-deep depth chart, though not too many.
That most positions have been decided before spring practice is a refreshing sign for the Vols, who have struggled with youth and inconsistency for the past few years.
The comprehensive two-deep depth chart is as follows.
Starter: Tyler Bray
Backup: Justin Worley
No surprises here. Tyler Bray showed his superior arm strength last year. Justin Worley filled in admirably when Bray went down with a broken thumb.
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Tailback starter: Marlin Lane
Backup: Jaron Toney
Fullback starter: Ben Bartholomew
Backup: Channing Fugate
The tailback position is incredibly thin once again. The only player who had more than 31 carries last year is Marlin Lane, who will be relied on to lead the way.
Channing Fugate might be a more explosive running and pass-catching fullback, but Ben Bartholomew's terrific blocking earned him the starting nod at the end of the 2011 season.
1A WR starter: Justin Hunter
Backup: Cordarelle Patterson
1B WR starter: Da'Rick Rogers
Backup: Rajion Neal
TE starter: Mychal Rivera
Backup: Cameron Clear
The depth chart is for a two-receiver, one-tight end set, though Tennessee is likely to use several offensive sets with three wide receivers this fall. In those instances, Cordarrelle Patterson will be the first option at the slot spot.
Because he was able to escape injury, Da'Rick Rogers showed his incredible talent last year.
And yes, the "1A" and "1B" titles are completely intentional.
LT starter: Dallas Thomas
Backup: Antonio Richardson
LG starter: Alex Bullard
Backup: Marcus Jackson
Center starter: James Stone**
Backup: Mack Crowder
RG starter: Zach Fulton
Backup: JerQuari Schofield
RT starter: Ja'Wuan James
Backup: Kyler Kerbyson
The offensive line is intact for a third straight year. They had a bad 2011 season, but I expect to see them bounce back and resemble their 2010 selves, plus two years of experience.
For the most part, the backups are interchangeable, especially on the interior of the offensive line. I decided to list a different player for each position because reading Marcus Jackson's name three times doesn't sound like too much fun.
**Note: I am the president of the movement to reinsert James Stone at center.
RE starter: Marlon Walls
Backup: Corey Miller
NT starter: Daniel McCullers
Backup: Allan Carson
LE starter: Maurice Couch
Backup: Daniel Hood
The Volunteers are likely to make the switch to the 3-4 defense with new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri and the kind of linemen and linebackers they have.
In the 3-4, a huge nose tackle is necessary to anchor the front seven. At 380 pounds, JUCO transfer Daniel McCullers fits the bill perfectly.
The ends in the 3-4 are typically undersized 4-3 defensive tackles.
Right OLB starter: Curt Maggitt
Backup: Jordan Williams
Right ILB starter: Herman Lathers
Backup: Greg King
Left ILB starter: A.J. Johnson
Backup: John Propst
Left OLB starter: Jacques Smith
Backup: Willie Bohannon
The extra linebacker in the 3-4 defense will prove invaluable for the Vols. The team is loaded with great talent at that position.
Small 4-3 defensive ends like Jacques Smith and Willie Bohannon are perfect outside linebackers in a 3-4. Smith's and freshman All-American Curt Maggitt's speed off the edge is something to watch for.
The inside is manned by A.J. Johnson, another freshman All-American, and Herman Lathers, a veteran returning from an injury that sidelined him all of 2011.
RCB starter: Prentiss Waggner
Backup: Justin Coleman
SS starter: Brent Brewer
Backup: Rodriguez Wilks
FS starter: Brian Randolph
Backup: Byron Moore
LCB starter: Izauea Lanier
Backup: Marsalis Teague
The emergence of freshman All-American Brian Randolph allowed Prentiss Waggner to move back to his natural cornerback position, which is exactly what the Tennessee Volunteers wanted.
The Big Orange have plenty of depth in the secondary. They just need to prove they're as good as they were supposed to be coming out of high school and junior college.
Kicker starter: Michael Palardy
Backup: George Bullock
Punter starter: Matt Darr
Backup: George Bullock
Kick returner starter: Devrin Young
Backup: Marlin Lane
Punt returner starter: Devrin Young
Backup: Rajion Neal
The special teams will be manned by a familiar group—for better or for worse.
George Bullock, the recently signed kicking and punting standout, waits in the wings if Michael Palardy or Matt Darr show signs that they haven't improved.
Devrin Young will get another shot to prove his play-making ability as the premier return man.