Tennessee Volunteers Football: Predicting the Final Two-Deep Depth Chart
On Thursday, the Tennessee Volunteers will release their post-camp depth chart. While nothing is ever set in stone, we'll get a clear picture of who we can expect to see on the field when the Chick-Fil-A Kick-Off Game begins in Atlanta on August 31st.
Looking at spring practice, summer workouts and most recently fall camp, I've come out with who I think the two-deep depth chart will be for every position.
There have been some changes at running back, the offensive line and the secondary. Each time someone overtakes a starter, I see that as building depth, which is necessary for a big 2012 season.
QB: Tyler Bray Is the Man
No. 1 - Tyler Bray
No. 2 - Justin Worley
No surprises here. Bray is the man at least for one more year where he'll have to decide between a conference championship run or the NFL.
RB: Rajion Neal Surges Ahead
No. 1 - Rajion Neal
No. 2 - Marlin Lane
No. 1 - Ben Bartholomew
No. 2 - Who cares?
In the south, we like to use the term "bless his heart" too often, but in the case of Neal, it's perfect. He has been thrown back and forth between wide receiver and running back his entire career at Tennessee but has settled in at running back and is outperforming Lane in camp, practice and scrimmage.
I believe he has leapfrogged the presumed starter.
WRs: A Glut of Talent
No. 1A - Justin Hunter
No. 1B - Da'Rick Rogers
No. 1C - Cordarrelle Patterson
No. 2 - Zach Rogers
Even though the Volunteers often go three-wide in their offensive sets, they rarely introduce three wide receivers as the starters, usually including one fullback. With two, if not three future first-round picks, that will change this year.
Zach Rogers is the first guy off the bench for each of the positions but barring injury, there won't be a ton of plays for the senior.
TEs: Scrambling After Dismissals and Injuries
No. 1 - Mychal Rivera
No. 2 - Greg King
Just a couple months ago, the Vols were sporting a strong three-deep tight end corp that featured super-sophomores Cam Clear and Brendan Downs. After Clear's dismissal and Downs' knee injury, the once deep position was in need of reinforcement.
Enter King, recruited and groomed as a linebacker but recently converted into backup tight end. Hopefully Rivera will have the kind of season he's capable of and it won't matter.
OLs: A Familiar Unit
No. 1 - Antonio Richardson
No. 2 - Dallas Thomas
No. 1 - Dallas Thomas
No. 2 - Alex Bullard
No. 1 - James Stone
No. 2 - Mack Crowder
No. 1 - Zach Fulton
No. 2 - Marcus Jackson
No. 1 - Ju'Wuan James
No. 2 - Kyler Kerbyson
The offensive line is absolutely loaded with depth. Virtually every player can play at least two other positions, with Alex Bullard seeing time at all five on the offensive line in fall camp.
In the hey day of the Phillip Fulmer Era, the offensive line would rotate frequently to keep everyone fresh. Those days have returned.
DLs: The Weakest Corp on the Team
No. 1 - Maurice Couch
No. 2 - Marlon Walls
No. 1 - Daniel McCullers
No. 2 - Daniel Hood
No. 1 - Darrington Sentimore
No. 2 - Steven Fowlkes
This two-deep depth chart has been the same for several weeks now, and with the amount of uncertainty on the defensive line, I don't see any reason there would be a change. The Volunteers need to play a little trial and error.
LBs: A Chance for Curt Maggitt and Jacques Smith to Shine
No. 1 - Curt Maggitt
No. 2 - Willie Bohannon
No. 1 - A.J. Johnson
No. 2 - Brent Brewer
No. 1 - Herman Lathers
No. 2 - Channing Fugate
No. 1 - Jacques Smith
No. 2 - Jordan Williams
The starting four linebackers in the 3-4 could be elite. Lathers was a terrific player before his injury last year, and he'll be making the call for the Tennessee defense.
If there's an injury to a player, though, you could see quite the carousel. You'll see that I have Brent Brewer as A.J. Johnson's primary back-up simply because there's not much depth. There are also several smallish defensive lineman like Williams, Corey Miller and Trent Taylor that could find their way to the linebacker depth chart.
DBs: Prentiss Waggner Is Back Where He Belongs
No. 1 - Prentiss Waggner
No. 2 - Eric Gordon
No. 1 - Brian Randolph
No. 2 - Rod Wilks
No. 1 - Byron Moore
No. 2 - Brent Brewer
No. 1 - Justin Coleman
No. 2 - Marsalis Teague
I could easily see Derek Dooley shuffling between Coleman and Teague for the cornerback spot opposite Waggner. Coleman provides more upside but Teague is the steady senior. Watch that one play out.
Moore has been practicing with the first team for a few weeks now and looks to have taken the starting job. I also see Gordon, who stepped up at the end of 2011, to win the back-up spot to Waggner over the slew of talented freshman.
Special Teams: Let's Hope the Usual Suspects Are Better in 2012
No. 1 - Michael Palardy
No. 2 - George Bullock
No. 1 - Matt Darr
No. 2 - Palardy or Bullock
No. 1 - Devrin Young
No. 2 - Marlin Lane
It's the same folks as last year for the special teams, plus a new back-up in Bullock. Bullock was a very talented kicker at Knoxville West, and like Palardy, can both kick and punt.
Palardy and Darr were some of the hottest recruited kickers a few years ago, so they absolutely have the skill. They'll need to put it together this season if Tennessee hopes to turn the program around.
Young has looked quicker in camp, and if Lane loses the tailback job to Rajion Neal, he'll need to make his mark on returns.
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