Tennessee Football: Spring Practice Position Battles Tracker

Ian Berg@@ShugJordanPkwyCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2013

Tennessee Football: Spring Practice Position Battles Tracker

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    Butch Jones is taking over a Tennessee program that has been on a downward spiral the past four seasons. There is talent on the roster, but it is going to be a tough spring while he's putting all the pieces together.

    This program is on the mend, and heading into a new year with a new staff, a number of positions are open. This is a look at the progression of those battles this spring and news that is coming out of Knoxville.  

    The spring game is set for Saturday, April 20, at 2 p.m. ET, but before it kicks off, this will be your guide to the news and developments out of Knoxville.

    Note: This slideshow will be updated with the latest news, position battles, injuries and more.

Latest News

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    Update: March 13

    The Volunteers have opened spring camp for the first time under Butch Jones.

    Rain attempted to put a damper on the second day of practice, but the Vols took to the indoor facility for the second practice of spring (h/t Go Vols Xtra).

    With only two practices in the bag there isn’t a lot of changes that have happened just yet.

    One name to keep tabs on is Paul Harris. He has what it takes to be a freshman star in 2013.

    Update: March 8

    The Volunteers are set to begin spring practice on Saturday, March 9.

    Butch Jones will enter his first practice with high expectations and a number of key position battles that will draw the attention of the SEC.

    As the news flows from spring practice, the updates will follow here. 

Key Offensive Battles to Watch

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    Quarterback

    Justin Worley (Jr.) vs. Nathan Peterman (Fr.)

    The quarterback race will get off to a start on Saturday with Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman battling for the starting job.

    New coach Butch Jones is looking for a starter that will take over his offense and have what it takes to guide Tennessee back to the top of the SEC East.

    Worley has the experience, but Peterman has more natural talent. Worley struggled last season and most fans are looking for a change. This will be one of the more intriguing races to watch this spring.

    Projected Starter: Nathan Peterman

    Actual Starter: TBD

    Receiver

    Alton Howard (So.) vs. Jason Croom (Fr.) vs. Cody Blanc (So.)

    The receiving corps is losing a lot of talent heading into the new year, but there is a lot of new talent that lines the roster that should transition well into the new Jones offense.

    A young group of players are battling for playing time heading into the spring with Alton Howard, Jason Croom and Cody Blanc all looking to make waves and earn playing time heading into the summer.

    There will be a lot of new talents that show up this fall, so having a huge spring is a must for these three guys heading into 2013.

    Projected Starter: Alton Howard

    Actual Starter: TBD

    Running Back

    Rajion Neal (Sr.) vs. Marlin Lane (Jr.)

    Last season Rajion Neal conceded a lot of carries to Marlon Lane to finish the year.

    Entering spring they are both expected to be front-runners for the starting running back spot, but Lane is the more aggressive runner of the two. He is a talented rising junior that brings a speed and power element to the game.

    Expect both to receive a number of snaps heading into the fall, but Lane should be the starter.

    Projected Starter: Marlin Lane

    Actual Starter: TBD

Key Defensive Battles to Watch

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    Defensive End

    Jordan Williams (Jr.) vs. LaTroy Lewis (Fr.)

    The Vols defensive line returns three solid starters to the fold this spring, but one defensive end position remains open.

    Heading into spring, Jordan Williams is expected to have the advantage, but LaTroy Lewis is a talented redshirt freshman who is ready to make his debut for the Volunteers.

    This is one of the few question marks that remains on an otherwise solid defense.

    Projected Starter: Jordan Williams

    Actual Starter: TBD

    Linebacker

    Dontavis Sapp (Sr.) vs. Kenny Bynum (Fr.)

    The outside linebacker position is the only other major concern for the Vols defense heading into the spring.

    Rising senior Dontavis Sapp is thought to have the edge in the race as he is the most experienced player at the position, but he had some miscues last season that will not be easily forgotten.

    Kenny Bynum is a rising redshirt freshman who has all the skills to be a performer, but his lack of experience tips the favor to Sapp.

    This battle should continue well into the 2013 season and see a mix of players hold the position.

    Projected Starter: Dontavis Sapp

    Actual Starter: TBD

Early Enrollees' Spring Grades

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    Jalen Reeves-Maybin, OLB, 6’1”, 200 lbs (4-star)

    Jalen Reeves-Maybin is a talented linebacker who was one of the stars of the Vols' 2013 class.

    The outside linebacker position is a concern heading into the new year, and Reeves-Maybin should get a solid look this spring.

    It will take a masterful performance for him to land in the playing mix heading into fall despite being an early enrollee and considering the light depth. Burning a redshirt for special teams play isn’t worth it.

    He also may transition into the safety position, further pushing back his debut.

    Post-Spring Grade: TBD

    Paul Harris, WR, 6’4”, 195 lbs (3-star)

    Paul Harris is a lengthy outside receiver that is one of the better early enrollees landing in Knoxville.

    His size makes him look the part, but a solid spring is needed before he is considered for playing time heading into the summer.

    Losing all three top receivers makes for an opening at the position, and Harris may be able to ride a strong spring into playing time heading into fall.

    Post-Spring Grade: TBD

    Lemond Johnson, S, 5’11”, 190 lbs (3-star)

    Lemond Johnson is a safety prospect from Florida who has great field vision and is strong in run support. He will be in spring and get a fair shot at making the depth chart, but Johnson appears to be headed for a redshirt.

    Post-Spring Grade: TBD

    Corey Vereen, ILB, 6’2”, 235 lbs (3-star)

    Corey Vereen is a sizable defender and a solid pickup for the Vols this spring.

    The inside linebacker position is full of returning talent, but this spring should bring a lot of reps for Vereen. He may be destined for a redshirt, but if needed he could play immediately.

    Post-Spring Grade: TBD

    Riyahd Jones, CB, 6’0”, 186 lbs (3-star)

    Riyahd Jones is a JUCO transfer that is stepping into a very open position group at corner for Tennessee.

    The Vols lacked playmakers last fall and they are looking for added depth this spring. Coming in as a JUCO transfer, Jones is expected to earn playing time.

    A solid spring will ensure that Jones makes it to the field in 2013.

    Post-Spring Grade: TBD

Sleepers to Watch

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    Kenny Bynum, Linebacker

    The Volunteers are looking for one more solid playmaker at linebacker, and Bynum could finish spring as that player.

    He is a sizable defender—6’1”, 246 lbs—and is able to play both inside and outside on defense.

    Watch his progression this spring on the outside.

    Justin Meredith, Tight End

    Justin Meredith is a young tight end for the Vols who is looking to make an impact this year. Losing the three leading receivers leaves a gap for the Tennessee offense, and bringing along a new quarterback is tough without proven pass-catchers.

    When a quarterback needs to be brought along, teams look for easy throws, and the tight end is an easy throw. This should be a strong spring for Meredith.

    Drae Bowles, Receiver

    Drae Bowles is battling for a spot in the receiving corps for the Vols heading into spring and may have a solid shot at winning one with the new spread offensive scheme being implemented by Butch Jones.

    This is a solid receiver who should be one of the rising names that comes out of spring.