KNOXVILLE – Redshirt junior Greg King is the latest defender to make the switch to offense. King, a former linebacker, worked with the tight ends during Sunday’s practice, becoming the third player to make the move recently.
He joins ex-linebacker Justin King and ex-defensive tackle Robert Ayres as players coach Derek Dooley has brought over in an attempt to put a bandage over the ailing fullback/tight end spot that has been decimated by injuries and attrition.
The Memphis native hopes it could be more than just a temporary solution.
“It’s an opening,” King said. “It’s a shot, we need it and I think I can do it. I hope I can be a big factor over there.”
It’s another career detour for King, who has seen his share of adversity since coming in as a promising freshman in 2009. He started two games that season, finishing with 24 tackles and a key interception in a win over South Carolina. Then the injuries started coming.
A broken elbow ended the promising 2009 campaign. A torn meniscus knocked him out of all but four games in 2010. Pain in both knees allowed for just a few plays in 2011.
He claims to be back to 100 percent, but now he will have a new position to learn. It’s one he hasn’t played since high school. And he didn’t play it much then – he caught only one pass for six seven yards in his prep career.
Still, Dooley is running out of options, and is willing to see what the 6-foot-2, 240-pounder can do.
“He’s got that tight end body type,” Dooley said. “He’s not in the two deep (on defense), but he’s got some good qualities about him. We’re going to see how it goes.”
Fugate impressing at inside linebacker: Inside linebacker Channing Fugate is emerging as a reliable backup behind starters Herman Lathers and A.J. Johnson. The former fullback made the switch to defense in the spring, and the results have been positive.
“He’s doing great,” Dooley said. “He’s just a real tough, hard-nosed dependable player. I’m glad we switched him to defense. He’s going to play a lot for us.”
Injury update: Lathers was back working at practice Sunday in a limited capacity after taking some time off late last week. No specific injury has been given for the redshirt senior, but Dooley said he’s been dealing with general fatigue and aches and pains.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Christian Harris (ACL) and freshman receiver Alton ‘Pig’ Howard (foot) were both at practice in full pads, but they were working on the side with trainers.
Tight end Mychal Rivera (knee) and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (shoulder) were in red, non-contact jerseys and were working without contact. Freshman safety LaDarrell McNeil (hamstring) was back to full speed after being limited last week.
Commitment has huge game: One future Vol had a huge start to his high school season Friday night. Receiver Josh Smith of Christian Academy of Knoxville, who is committed to the Vols, caught eight passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns as his team defeated Anderson County 76-45, according to stats published by the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
Smith also returned two punts (72, 55) for touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Smith caught a combined 164 passes for 2,965 yards and 37 touchdowns during his sophomore and junior seasons.
Practice observations: Some observations from the open portion of Tennessee’s practice on Sunday:
• Freshman linebacker LaTroy Lewis has been getting a lot of work with second-team defense. He has a great size at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, and he moves very well.
• Alex Bullard continues to take a tour of the offensive line. He has worked at center and left tackle this fall, and Sunday he was working with as the right guard with the second team. The second-team offensive line on Sunday (from left to right) was Alan Posey, Marcus Jackson, Mack Crowder, Bullard and Kyler Kerbyson.
• One of the offensive drills had all five quarterbacks throw routes to receivers simultaneously. Tyler Bray, Justin Worley, Nathan Peterman, Joe Stocstill and Patrick Ashford are the five quarterbacks on the roster.