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Tennessee Football: Post-Spring Two-Deep Depth Chart

Randy ChambersAnalyst IApril 24, 2012

Tennessee Football: Post-Spring Two-Deep Depth Chart

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    It's been four years since the Volunteers have won a bowl game or double-digit games. This is the year that Tennessee believes it can change some of those misfortunes as it hopes to be one of the more surprising teams in the country. It returns a total of 19 starters and have a bunch of young talent at nearly every position.

    But with the spring practices and spring game now over, it's time to see who has improved their game and who has moved up the depth chart. Which players have emerged as the playmakers and who has made a case for more playing time?

    Here is what the 2012 post-spring depth chart for the Tennessee Volunteers should look like.

Quarterback

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    Starter: Tyler Bray

    Backup: Justin Worley

    Bray has been the starter for the Volunteers the last two seasons and has improved his game each year. It'd be nice to see him take that next step in his career and with most his offense remaining intact, you'd think he's in for a big year this season.

Running Back

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    Starter: Marlin Lane

    Backup: Rajion Neal

    With Tauren Poole graduating, Lane is now looked to try and lead this team on the ground. The Volunteers struggled mightily to run the ball last season, but Lane did show some positives.

    He broke off some big runs his freshman year, including a 45-yard rush against Arkansas. He also caught 17 passes, which shows his versatility. I expect a big season from the sophomore.

Wide Receiver

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    Starter: Justin Hunter

    Backup: Zach Rogers

    Hunter was off to a great start his sophomore season before tearing his ACL in Week 3 against the Florida Gators. The good news is that he appears to be healthy now and should be in for a fantastic season.

    At 6'4", 200 pounds and with his athleticism, there's no reason he couldn't emerge as one of the better receivers in the country.

Wide Receiver

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    Starter: Da’Rick Rogers

    Backup: Vincent Dallas

    Rogers really stood out in the spring game, hauling in five passes for 74 yards. There's really no question he'll continue to be the starter for the Volunteers. After all, he finished the season with 67 catches for over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. No other receiver caught 30 or more passes last season.

Wide Receiver

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    Starter: Cordarrelle Patterson

    Backup: Naz Oliver

    This may be cheating a little bit because Patterson has yet to even enroll at Tennessee, but he'll be on the field by the time the season starts for the Volunteers. He's a 5-star recruit who is transferring from a JUCO.

    If you haven't heard of him yet, let wide receivers coach Darin Hinshaw break him down for you when spoke to Scout.com:

    Cordarrelle Patterson ... you guys will know his name very well. He's an older guy, an All-American in junior college. The speed, size and strength we saw live and on film gives us a lot of excitement about what he can bring. ... He plays like a little guy but he's huge.

Tight End

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    Starter: Mychal Rivera

    Backup: Cam Clear

    Tennessee may have struggled to find many targets last season besides Rogers, but Rivera was second on the team with 29 receptions. This season the coaches will look to use him in a variety of different ways and get the most out of his talents.

Left Tackle

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    Starter: Antonio Richardson

    Backup: Dallas Thomas

    Richardson played a little bit his freshman season, but never started a game over Thomas. In spring practice he has played well enough to take over the starting job and become one of the main guys on the offensive line. I expect to see him protect the quarterbacks' blind side this season.

Left Guard

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    Starter: Dallas Thomas

    Backup: Marcus Jackson

    With Richardson taking over at left tackle, Thomas will move over to left guard and help dominate the left side of the line. Richardson is very important to this team and this line particularly, considering he's the only senior you'll see.

Center

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    Starter: Alex Bullard

    Backup: James Stone

    Bullard is also one of the more experienced players on this line and will really help this unit improve on last season's performance. Last season was his first with Tennessee, and he started all 12 games for the Volunteers. He played six at left guard and six at center. He'll be back in the middle of the line this season.

Right Guard

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    Starter: Zach Fulton

    Backup: James Stone

    Fulton and Stone will continue to battle it out throughout the fall, but as of right now I'll keep Fulton at right guard. He's started 17 games since his freshman season and stared all 12 games at the right guard position last year.

Right Tackle

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    Starter: Ja’Wuan James

    Backup: Alan Posey

    James is another veteran along this defensive line as he's started all 12 games last season at right tackle. In fact he's started all 25 games since his freshman season at this position. I think it's safe to say you can count on the junior being in his usual spot.

Defensive End

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    Starter: Darrington Sentimore

    Backup: Trevarris Saulsberry

    Sentimore transferred to Tennessee because he needed to get back in the SEC after spending a couple of seasons at Alabama. He's comfortable with new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri and should help improve a horrible pass rush from last season.

Nose Tackle

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    Starter: Maurice Couch

    Backup: Daniel McCullers

    Couch played in all 12 games his first season at Tennessee, despite only starting four. He finished with 37 tackles, nine tackles for loss and two sacks. He'll continue battling McCullers for the position throughout the fall, but it looks like it's his job to lose at this point.

Defensive End

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    Starter: Marlon Walls

    Backup: Trent Taylor

    We finally got to see what Walls could do when he's healthy, as he finished last season with 22 tackles and four tackles for loss in limited playing time. In a more expanded role as the starter, he should improve those numbers and have his biggest season yet.

Linebacker

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    Starter: Jacques Smith

    Backup: Willie Bohannon

    Smith started in eight games last season for the Volunteers and finished second on the team in quarterback hurries at defensive end. Now he'll switch to linebacker in the new defense and is already comfortable with the switch.

    Bleacher Report has him as one of the top 150 players in the SEC this season.

Linebacker

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    Starter: Herman Lathers

    Backup: John Propst

    Lathers didn't play at all last season due to an ankle injury, but he's back on the field and will instantly become a leader on this defense. He should also pick up where he left off in 2010, when he finished with 75 tackles and three sacks.

    Bleacher Report also has Lathers as a top-150 player in the SEC this season.

Linebacker

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    Starter: A.J. Johnson

    Backup: John Propst

    There's really no debate that Johnson will be back on the field as a starter after leading all SEC freshmen in tackles with 80. He also forced a fumble, recovered two fumbles and had 4.5 tackles for loss in 10 games as a starter.

    With a year under his belt, you can expect even bigger things from the young man.

Linebacker

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    Starter: Curt Maggitt

    Backup: Raiques Crump

    Maggitt hasn't been able to practice much due to a shoulder injury he suffered last year that is still bothering him. He will be back and ready to go by the time the season starts and should pick up where he left off his freshman season (56 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss).

Cornerback

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    Starter: Prentiss Waggner

    Backup: Justin Coleman

    Waggner is a shutdown corner and one of only a couple of seniors on this roster. That's why he's tackling a new role of becoming a leader for this defense. Regardless, this guy can flat out play football and is a big part of the defensive backfield.

Cornerback

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    Starter: Izauea Lanier

    Backup: Marsalis Teague

    Like many of Volunteers on this roster, Lanier is a very young player who showed he has what it takes last year when he started eight games at cornerback. His height at 6'1" makes him a tough matchup for most receivers and should take that next step to his game this season.

Strong Safety

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    Starter: Brent Brewer

    Backup: Rodriguez Wilks

    Brewer started last season at strong safety, but struggled to get the job done effectively before tearing his ACL and missing the rest of the season. He's more comfortable at linebacker, but with the depth at that position, he'll continue to get reps in the defensive backfield.

    Watch this position closely because it's one that hasn't been settled just yet.

Free Safety

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    Starter: Brian Randolph

    Backup: Geraldo Orta

    Randolph is another player who saw a lot of minutes his true freshman season as he started eight games. He finished the season with 55 tackles and forced a fumble in the game against South Carolina. He's received a lot of reps in spring practice and looks to receive a lot of playing time this season.

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