If fans were hoping Butch Jones would give some insight into who his starting quarterback will be this season, they were disappointed today with the release of Tennessee’s first 2013 depth chart.
The Vols listed junior Justin Worley and redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman as co-starters at quarterback.
A lot of fans have hopes that one of the true freshman, Joshua Dobbs or Riley Ferguson, will win the starting quarterback job, but with only a month to practice before the Austin Peay game I wouldn’t count on that being a reality.
You’ve got to believe that it’s Worley’s job to lose, unless Peterman can significantly out-perform him this fall. Worley’s game experience, however, is enough to separate the two if the competition ends up being a very close one.
As far as the rest of the offense goes, junior Brendan Downs is listed as the starter at tight end, a position left vacant by the graduation of Mychal Rivera. Downs has six catches over his first two seasons with the Vols, for a total of 73 yards and one touchdown. Redshirt senior Joseph Ayres and junior college transfer Woody Quinn are listed below Downs on the depth chart.
Tennessee’s stellar offensive line is listed as you’d expect. The only position where there could be some competition is at left guard, where redshirt senior Alex Bullard is listed as the starter. Redshirt sophomore Mack Crowder could push for the job, but I’d expect Bullard to hang onto the starting position.
Wide receiver is a position where the Vols have a lot of question marks. Tennessee lost nearly all of their production at wide receiver with the losses of Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson and Zach Rogers.
Tennessee listed three starters at wide receiver today, redshirt freshman Jason Croom, sophomore Cody Blanc and sophomore Pig Howard.
Howard is the only receiver, among the three listed at starter, that has recorded any stats as a Vol. He finished his freshman season with 13 catches for 54 yards and one touchdown. Howard also had 14 carries for 44 yards.
Cody Blanc played mostly on special teams and Croom redshirted after appearing in three games, before sustaining a shoulder injury.
Croom, who at one time was being considered at tight end, will be a big target for whoever wins the starting quarterback job. The 6’5″/223 lb is a former four-star recruit out of Norcross, GA.
The Vols may have lost a lot of production at the receiver position, but they have a lot of depth this season — albeit inexperienced.
Vincent Dallas, a junior who is listed behind Croom on the depth chart, finished his sophomore season with nine receptions for 149 yards and one touchdown.
Dallas had a career game against South Carolina, catching three passes for 78 yards, including a 61 yard touchdown reception.
The Vols have junior Devrin Young listed behind Pig Howard on the depth chart. Young played primarily at running back in 2012, but will be a slot receiver under Butch Jones.
Listed behind Cody Blanc on the depth chart are true freshmen Paul Harris and Marquez North. Both posses elite size (Harris is 6’4″/200 and North is 6’4″/215) and there’s a good chance that one of the two will pass Blanc for a starting job this fall. North (considered by most the “star” of the 2013 recruiting class) is most likely to pass Blanc, but Harris should receive a good amount of playing time as a freshman as well.
The most interesting depth chart tidbit comes at the running back position.
Junior running back Marlin Lane, who was suspended during a portion of spring practice but has since been reinstated, is missing from the depth chart. Lane’s absence from the depth chart probably has more to do with his small amount of work put in this spring, rather than Jones’ plans for him this fall.
Senior Rajion Neal is listed as the starting running back, with redshirt freshman Alden Hill listed as the number two back. Hill had a solid spring, including a 101 yard rushing performance in the spring game, which led Butch Jones to say “He has been a great surprise….he has been an individual who has had great consistency in his performance”. Even though Hill will almost certainly enter the season as the number three running back, he should be a candidate to have a breakout season in 2013.
There weren’t many surprises on the defensive side of the depth chart either.
The Vols’ defensive line features plenty of experience, with four seniors listed as starters.
Among them are: Jacques Smith and Marlon Walls at defensive end and Daniel McCullers and Daniel Hood at defensive tackle.
Defensive tackle and fellow senior Maurice Couch, who missed all of spring practice, should also be in the mix for plenty of playing time.
A.J. Johnson will hold down the middle linebacker position as the Vols return to a 4-3 defensive front. Johnson led the SEC in tackles last year as a sophomore with 138.
Senior Dontavis Sapp is listed as the starting weakside linebacker and senior Brent Brewer is listed as the starting strongside linebacker. Junior Curt Maggitt missed all of spring practice, but could push Brewer for a starting job.
Juniors Justin Coleman and Riyahd Jones are listed as the starting cornerbacks (Jones is a junior college transfer in his first season with the Vols).
A pair of true freshmen, Malik Foreman and Cameron Sutton, are listed behind Coleman and Jones on the depth chart.
Redshirt sophomore Brian Randolph, who is recovering from a torn ACL in 2012, is listed as the starting free safety. Sophomore LaDarrell McNeil is listed as the starting strong safety, with senior Byron Moore behind him.
Max Arnold, a redshirt sophomore, is listed as the backup at free safety.
Michael Palardy is listed as handling all the kicking duties and Devrin Young is listed as both punt returner and kick returner.
There are a total of five true freshman listed on the depth chart, but none as a starter.
It’s important to remember that this is a pre-camp depth chart and a lot will likely change between now and the Austin Peay game on August 31.
Tennessee kicks off practice on Friday.
The full depth chart is available here.
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