KNOXVILLE – Butch Jones said Tennessee won’t release a post-spring depth chart.
But that won’t stop us from coming up with our own projections and adding in injured players and new arrivals over the summer to form an educated guess of who the Vols will be relying on in the fall.
Here’s a look at a projected two-deep at every position, sometimes deeper, and some analysis on each spot.
Offense (Three-wide receiver look):
1. Justin Worley 2. Riley Ferguson 3. Joshua Dobbs 4. Nathan Peterman
Analysis: While Ferguson and Dobbs both had some fantastic moments this spring, Worley is the security blanket that the coaches continue to go back to. The onus will be on Ferguson or Dobbs to clearly overtakeWorley, because if all is close to even, expect the coaches to stick with the rising senior.
1. Marlin Lane 2. Jalen Hurd 3. Devrin Young
Analysis: Lane and Hurd established themselves as the most likely one-two punch. Expect Lane to get the first shot with Hurd seeing plenty of work as well. Young is a nice change-of-pace option who showed multiple times this spring that he can burn defenses in a variety of ways. Newcomer Derrell Scott is another name to keep a close eye on in the fall.
1. Marquez North 2. Josh Smith 3. Cody Blanc
1. Josh Malone 2. Jason Croom 3. Jacob Carter
(slot) 1. Von Pearson 2. Johnathon Johnson 3. Vic Wharton
Analysis: Even if Pig Howard doesn’t return from his absence from the team, the Vols still have a chance to be special here. North, Malone and Pearson all had strong springs. Quietly, Smith, Croom and Blanc also had several good plays as well in the spring, giving UT more depth.
1. Ethan Wolf 2. Daniel Helm 3. Brendan Downs 4. Alex Ellis
Analysis: This spot is very much up for grabs and multiple players will likely see the field. That’s a good thing for UT after Downs was forced to play virtually every snap last season. The freshmen, Wolf and Helm, looked like SEC-ready tight ends this spring. They could get most of the work even over Downs, a rising senior who failed to produce last year. Keep an eye on walk-on Alex Ells, who was a surprise starter in the Orange and White Game and A.J. Branisel, who made a few nice plays in 2013 before tearing his ACL. At the very least, the Vols have depth now and can use multiple-tight end formations.
LT: 1. Dontavius Blair 2. Jacob Gilliam
LG: 1. Marcus Jackson 2. Austin Sanders
C: 1. Mack Crowder 2. Ray Raulerson
RG: 1. Kyler Kerbyson 2. Dylan Wiesman
RT: 1. Coleman Thomas 2. Brett Kendrick
Anaylsis: The first-team line pretty much settled itself this spring with the exception of left tackle. Blair worked with the starters at the beginning of spring, but Gilliam, a senior walk-on, ended spring as the starter. Both will have a chance. I’m projecting Blair to ultimately work his way back up to starter after a summer of learning theoffense and getting stronger, but that battle could go either way. Newcomers Jashon Robertson and Charles Mosley could both get a look on the O-line in the fall as well, in addition to current -defensive tackle Jason Carr. The Vols need a lot more depth here.
Defense (Nickel package):
DE: 1. Corey Vereen 2. Dewayne Hendrix 3. Jakob Johnson
DT: 1. Danny O’Brien 2. Charles Mosley 3. Michael Sawyers
DT: 1. Trevarris Saulsberry 2. Owen Williams 3. Derek Barnett
DE: 1. Curt Maggitt 2. Jordan Williams 3. Joe Henderson
Analysis: Maggitt settled in as a starter at defensive end who might switch back to an outside linebacker in some run-stopping formations. Jordan Williams worked at DE and DT, increasing his value and versatility this spring. With few players separating themselves this spring and Saulsberry returning from injury, in addition to as many as six newcomers arriving up front, this unit will have to be more accurately sorted out in the fall.
1. A.J. Johnson 2. Gavin Bryant 3. Kenny Bynum
1. Jalen Reeves-Maybin 2. Dillon Bates 3. Chris Weatherd
Analysis: Johnson is an obvious starter in any look. Reeves-Maybin made huge strides towards locking down the other spot in the nickel package. But who the third LB would be in a more traditional 4-3 and overall depthatthe spot remain questions. The three newcomers – Bates, Bryant and Weatherd – will battle with Bynum, Neiko Creamer, Colton Jumper and Justin King to fill some of those roles. Don’t forget about Maggitt here as well. He could easily see some looks at OLB in some situations.
CB: 1. Cam Sutton 2. D’Andre Payne 3. Malik Foreman
CB: 1. Emmanuel Moseley 2. Evan Berry 3. Riyahd Jones
NB: 1. Justin Coleman 2. Rashaan Gaulden 3. JaRon Toney
FS: 1. Brian Randolph 2. Devaun Swafford 3. Lemond Johnson
SS: 1. Todd Kelly 2. LaDarrell McNeil 3. Cortez McDowell
Analysis: Like the D-line, the secondary will have a lot of new faces and a veteran returning from injury, Brian Randolph. The competition will be fierce here. Sutton, Randolph and probably Coleman are the only ones who should feel secure in their spot. Moseley had a good spring, though he’ll be pushed by other newcomers. McNeilwill be pushed, and very possibly overtaken, by a group of talented new safeties. The Vols recruited very well in the secondary and that will show in the fall.
K: 1. Aaron Medley 2. George Bullock
P: 1. Matt Darr 2. Trevor Daniel
KR: 1. Devrin Young 2. JaRon Toney
PR: 1. Devrin Young 2. Cam Sutton
Analysis: Though inconsistent, Darr will be the punter pretty much by default. There will be competition at kicker, however. Bullock and Derrick Brodus will be pushed by Medley, a highly-rated newcomer who will be a real contender for the starting job. Several newcomers could get a look in the return game, though Young, the steady veteran, is the best bet for now.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter@DanielNooga