KNOXVILLE – After a few years of slumber, the uniform questions and debates are back in full force for Tennessee football.
Former coach Lane Kiffin unveiled black jerseys with orange numerals and orange pants for the Vols’ Halloween win over South Carolina in 2009. Since that time, the black jerseys have gone back in the vault and only minor variations have been made to the traditional orange and white look.
Tennessee will reportedly make more minor adjustments in 2013, including the inclusion of an outline of the state above players’ name on the back of the jersey.
It sounds like more significant changes could be in store as well. Coach Butch Jones didn’t rule out that possibility on Wednesday in UT’s preseason press conference after rumors and speculation have circulated this summer.
"Well, I will tell you this: in today's world of recruiting and the age that we live in, that's something that has kind of been important to programs,” he said.
“I respect the great tradition that we have here. I think I've proven that. Everything is about our tradition, but we will continue to look and evaluate that. If that's best for us, we will do that. There may be something coming, but everything that we do and if we do it, will respect our traditions here at Tennessee."
So don’t expect an Oregon-like variety of outlandish looks for the Vols, but, reading between the lines of Jones’ comments, it looks like Tennessee could be in for some uniform changes in the near future.
What exactly they will be and whether it will be a permanent change or just an occasional alternate-jersey look remains to be seen. Ideas thrown around include adding black or gray or perhaps incorporating the checkered end zone pattern more.
Eric Gordon officially off the team: It was more of a formality since the redshirt senior wasn’t listed in the team’s media guide handed out at SEC Media Days, but Jones did confirm that Gordon, who missed most of spring practice and summer for disciplinary reasons, won’t return to the team this fall.
"Unfortunately, Eric is no longer part of our football team, but he will always be a part of our football program,” Jones said. “The big thing for Eric is, we are working on, he is real close to graduation, so we are going to do everything we can to support Eric."
Gordon, a Nashville native, was the first player to commit to Kiffin. Kiffin’s 2009 recruiting class at Tennessee is now down to six players – Greg King, Marlon Walls, Daniel Hood, Naz Oliver, Marsalis Teague and Zach Rogers – who are either still with the team or who finished their eligibility last year.
Jones downplays initial depth chart: Approximately 24 hours after Jones and UT released the official preseason depth chart, he downplayed the significance of it.
"I've said it from day one. – a depth chart in our program is irrelevant,” he said. “All a depth chart means is who takes the first rep and then it's up to everyone, I told them, you are responsible for creating your own identity. … The depth chart will change.”
Junior quarterback Justin Worley, who is listed as the co-starter at quarterback with Nathan Peterman, claimed to have not even seen or known about it, so it appears to not be a pressing issue for the players. Nonetheless, here’s our analysis of what was posted yesterday if you did miss it.
Three safety package possible?: With Tennessee limited in its secondary options, especially at cornerback, the Vols could turn to their deep group of safeties to help out.
Traditionally, only two safeties are on the field in any given formation, but with the Vols boasting three former starters – Brian Randolph, Byron Moore and LaDarrell McNeil – they have options when it comes to situations that require five or six total DBs on the field.
“I feel like we all know a lot about the defense,” Randolph said of the safeties. “If we have to, we can move one of us to nickel to help out there and get all three of us on the field. It’s just good to have such a good rotation at safety.”
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga