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Tennessee Volunteers Football: News, Notes and Updates from Camp

Daniel HudsonCorrespondent IIIAugust 23, 2011

Tennessee Volunteers Football: News, Notes and Updates from Camp

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    Check out the following slides to get the latest news on the Tennessee Volunteers' camp information.

    Sources ranging UTSports.com to 99.1 FM The Sports Animal in Knoxville to Derek Dooley himself are included, so you can be confident in the reports.

    Tennessee's first game is on Sept. 3 against the Montana Grizzlies, but I think the real gem of the first part of the season will be the Sept. 17 trip to Gainesville. If the Vols can have a good camp, that's a winnable game.

    One thing to keep in mind: The Big Orange is young.

Quarterback

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    This position is in steady shape for the Tennessee Volunteers.

    Tyler Bray is slated to start as the signal-caller this year as a true sophomore, hoping to build on a fantastic freshman campaign. According to Jimmy Hyams, the reports of Bray's regression at camp aren't true.

    Matt Simms, a senior, is the best backup quarterback in the SEC. He put up respectable numbers last year in his eight starts—113/195, 1,460 yards and eight touchdowns—and faced the hardest teams on the 2010 schedule. His experience is proving to be valuable at camp.

    Justin Worley, the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year, comes in as a freshman this fall. Head coach Derek Dooley hasn't said much about Worley in camp this year, which leads me to believe that he'll be red-shirted—a great luxury.

    Nash Nance got two attempts in the scrimmage 10 days ago. 

Running Back

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    The running back corp has a lot of potential, but senior tailback Tauren Poole will have to lead this group in a big way if the Tennessee Volunteers want to make some noise in the SEC.

    Derek Dooley has said during camp that he likes to have three capable runners. With Poole named the unquestioned starter, that leaves Raijon Neal and freshmen Marlin Lane and Tom Smith to pick up the slack.

    Neal has shown his ability to be a quality backup, while Lane and Smith have been limited by conditioning and injuries, respectively.

    Lane has shown flashes of brilliance though, causing many to speculate how much stronger he would've been recruited had he not dealt with a knee injury his senior year in high school.

    Dooley recently said, "If we don't run the ball well this year, we're not going to be any good. That's just how it is." 

Wide Receivers

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    I'm the steering the horses on this bandwagon. The Tennessee Volunteers have perhaps one of their most talented groups of wide receivers in school history.

    As with many other parts of the team, though, they're young.

    Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers are the obvious No. 1 and No. 2 pass catchers. In their most recent scrimmage, Hunter caught a 28-yard touchdown from Tyler Bray, and Rogers led the game in receptions with three. Expect more of the same from these two.

    The wild cards who could really bust the wide receivers loose are DeAnthony Arnett, a freshman, and Matt Milton, a sophomore.

    Arnett has had a quiet camp, catching just three passes in the last two scrimmages. Milton is bursting with potential at 6'5", 210 pounds and seems to be finally be coming around. He snagged four catches for 63 yards and a touchdown in his last scrimmage.

    Zach Rogers and Vincent Dallas also will factor in, though both have had a mild camp.

Tight Ends

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    With the departure of Luke Stocker, the Tennessee Volunteers' tight end position was left open for a handful of young men to compete for.

    Mychal Rivera has taken that opportunity and run with it. While his physique and conditioning has improved throughout camp, it's his study of the playbook that he believes has been his most significant accomplishment:

    I go through a routine every day. I go through my playbook before practice. I go through my playbook after practice. I'm always in my playbook, always discussing my routes and what we did wrong in our meetings and just communicating constantly with Coach Russell and all the coaches.

    Rivera, who caught 11 passes for 112 yards last year, clearly has the skill to factor in the the Vols' offense.

    Freshmen Cam Clear and Brendan Downs should see some playing time in spare moments, as will Ben Bartholomew. Rivera has complemented his counterparts, noting their willingness to learn each and every day.

Offensive Line

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    This is the best unit on the entire Tennessee Volunteers football team. Their camp has done nothing but reinforce that.

    Derek Dooley has joked that they keep tearing up his grass in the corner of the field, which is a good sign for Vol fans. Dooley is an optimistic coach, but tries to always find small things to critique his players, so if that's all he can say to the offensive line, they're in great shape.

    Notre Dame transfer Alex Bullard has grabbed hold of the left guard spot, which will allow the three interior linemen to rotate as they tire during games. James Stone has solidified himself as the center, leaving Zach Fulton and JerQuari Schofield to compete for the right guard.

    It will be a real advantage to be able to substitute from time to time in the interior.

    Outside, there is a little less depth, but still great talent. JaWuan James and Dallas Thomas have picked up where they left off last year, and freshman Antonio "Tiny" Richardson figures to get time when one of those two are tired.

Defensive Line

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    The defensive line is a huge question mark for the Tennessee Volunteers.

    Derek Dooley remarked in one of his daily interviews that the fact Ben Martin is on the field is a great sign.

    Martin was as talented a defensive end in the country when he was coming out of high school five years ago, but a plethora of knee injuries has hindered his progress on Rocky Top.

    He's back at camp and performing well. He and Marlon Walls, both of whom missed all of 2010, are basically like new recruits coming in and are a sign of good things to come in practice.

    The dismissal of Montori Hughes from the team weakened an already depleted defensive tackle position. Junior college transfer Maurice Couch and senior Malik Jackson are assuming leadership position on the defensive line.

    Their ability to rally the troops this camp will be imperative.

Linebackers

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    If the defensive line is the biggest question for the Tennessee Volunteers, then the linebackers are the second.

    The story out of training camp is the great progress that freshmen Curt Maggitt and A.J. Johnson are making. In fact, if the season started now, reports are that Maggitt and Johnson would be Tennessee's starting outside linebacker.

    According to Brent Hubbs, that's due more to their skill than to the lack of talent at the position, though both are evident.

    Austin Johnson will anchor the linebacking corp. Johnson has been a strong leader and good role model until his recent drunken arrest. The remainder of his camp will prove his merit.

Cornerbacks

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    The Tennessee Volunteers are loading up with talent at the cornerback position, so the talent is there, but it's young.

    The key here will be allocating incoming defensive backs Byron Moore, Pat Martin and Justin Coleman between cornerback and safety. Coleman has wowed coaches with his speed and athleticism and would be a starter if the season started today.

    Moore and Martin are still determining their best fit, but indications are that Moore will shift back to safety, while Martin will stay put.

    Art Evans is the top cornerback and has built a good relationship with his coach, Terry Joseph. Evans has shown flashes of what he's capable of, but by his own admission, it's taking a little while to get back into the flow. 

Safeties

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    No different than the cornerbacks, the safeties are in excellent shape for the Tennessee Volunteers.

    The big story throughout camp and the offseason has been the return of Janzen Jackson from his leave of absence during the spring of 2010.

    Derek Dooley has said that Jackson has a way to go before he's in shape mentally and physically to start at safety for the Vols, but I fully expect to see Jackson not only start, but play a vital role in the life of the 2011 Tennessee defense.

    Newcomer Byron Moore is working hard to get playing time, but the former professional baseball player Brent Brewer is showing his incredible athleticism in camp and is likely to start alongside Jackson.

    Prentiss Waggner tied Jackson for the team lead in interceptions during 2010 and is being used extensively in nickel formations.

Special Teams

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    Finally, we've arrived at the infamous special teams unit for the Tennessee Volunteers.

    The Vols had significant problems just catching punts consistently in 2010, so Derek Dooley made sure he found a specialist. Devrin Young was just that until he broke his collarbone in camp and is out for several weeks.

    While Young will still work his way back into the role, his setback has opened the door for two other freshmen, Marlin Lane and Tom Smith. Smith has also been hurt, so you can already see that the Vols have a large task ahead of them.

    Michael Palardy is handling kicking with his low-driving style in camp, while red-shirt freshman Michael Darr is punting. That's three freshman in key roles.

    The kick return game is a big toss up at this point in camp. Da'Rick Rogers, Raijon Neal and Anthony Anderson have seen time returning, but it's anyone guess at this point, including Dooley's. 

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