KNOXVILLE – Already dangerously thin at cornerback, Tennessee might have lost another scholarship player at that spot.
Junior Riyahd Jones, who entered camp listed as the starter at one of the cornerback spots, didn’t participate in practice on Monday and was seen moving around slowly on crutches during and after practice.
Coach Butch Jones wasn’t scheduled to address the media Monday, so there’s no official prognosis at this point, but, based off of observation, it seems that Jones could miss a significant amount of time.
Likely in response to Jones’ injury, receiver Vincent Dallas worked at cornerback on Monday. Dallas briefly worked as a cornerback last spring before moving back to receiver.
“I would think [working at CB in the past] would aid him in learning,” defensive coordinator John Jancek said. “I don’t know what his recall will be from when he played there in the past. We’re excited to have him. We’ll find out what he can do more [during the night practice].”
That leaves junior Justin Coleman and Sutton as the likely starters at outside corner at this point. Options to back them up are thin. Foreman and Dallas will get a chance, along with walk-on Michael Williams, who was also held out of practice Monday with a minor injury.
Asked about the chances of a true freshman starting at corner, Jancek responded, “pretty good.”
“Malik and Cam are going to play,” he added. “That’s reality. They’re going to take their lumps early. But the thing I like about them, Cam particularly, doesn’t get too frustrated. He’s not too up, he’s not too low. I think he’s got the right demeanor.”
Jones’ injury and potential missed time is just the latest in a long string of problems at the positions. Prentiss Waggner and Marsalis Teague graduated last year. Eric Gordon, Daniel Gray, Deion Bonner and Naz Oliver have all left the program since last season.
“It’s tough, but like I said, we have to move forward,” Jancek said. “Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. It’s just a matter of trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together so that you can put the best team and defense on the field. You’re going to have to adjust. That’s what we do as coaches. We’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves.”
Reeves-Maybin working at linebacker: Dallas to cornerback wasn’t the only position change on Monday.
Freshman Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who had been working at safety, worked with the linebackers on Monday.
“I see physicality,” Jancek said of what he saw in Reeves-Maybin as a linebacker. “He’s a smart player. He’s got good size. I think his natural fit is going to be as a linebacker moving forward. He’s only going to get bigger and we need some help at that position.”
Reeves-Maybin is listed at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds and could easily grow to the 220-230 range in a couple years. UT is looking for depth this year, but the move was also likely made with the next few years in mind.
Before moving Reeves-Maybin and former tight end Justin King to linebacker, the Vols were only scheduled to have four scholarship linebackers back in 2014 – A.J. Johnson (who is a strong candidate for early entry into the NFL draft), Curt Maggitt, Christian Harris and Kenny Bynum.
Injury notes: In addition to Riyahd Jones, defensive end Jacques Smith (hand), tight end Justin Meredith (hamstring) and defensive end Corey Vereen (knee) continued to be out.
Receiver Paul Harris and walk-on cornerback Michael Williams worked with trainers for most of practice. Running back Marlin Lane, tight end Alex Ellis, linebacker Curt Maggitt and Justin King all practiced in non-contact jerseys.
Receiver Josh Smith returned to full-speed action with a brace on his right knee. Safeties LaDarrell McNeil and Byron Moore were also back to full speed after missing some time last week.
. The Vols did some more situational scrimmage work. Freshman receiver Ryan Jenkins had back-to-back touchdown grabs during one portion - one thrown by Nathan Peterman and the other from Joshua Dobbs.
. Peterman also had a pass deflected and intercepted by linebacker Kenny Bynum. Bynum wisely slid to the turf after making the interception since the Vols were working on end-of-game situations and Bynum’s slide ended the game. Butch Jones praised Bynum for his awareness in that situation.
. Both Michael Palardy and George Bullock hit field goals of 50-plus in simulated game-ending situations as well. Palardy missed one as well, but the two makes were some of the best kicks seen thus far during the open portion of practice in camp.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter@DanielNooga