The players that exceeded expectations in year one of the Butch Jones era are going to have to prove themselves all over again this upcoming season.
That’s because Butch Jones said every position battle would be open this spring.
Jones: It’s all even. That position [QB] is up for competition come spring. Every position is open.
Obviously the quarterback battle will garner the most headlines, but there will be some other very interesting position battles as well.
The wide receiver group will have a totally different look. I’d expect Josh Malone and Von Pearson to be heavily featured. Returning starter Marquez North will be the undoubted number one receiver, while Pig Howard should still receive a substantial amount of playing time as the slot receiver. You’ll likely see much less of guys like Josh Smith and Jason Croom.
The runnning back position will have a bit of a different look as well, with starter Rajion Neal gone. The biggest question that lingers is “Will Jalen Hurd challenge Marlin Lane for the starting job?”
I’m not inclined to believe that Hurd will win the job out of camp, but his status as an early enrollee will certainly help his development.
Other position battles to watch will be all along the offensive and defensive line. The Vols have a ton of turnover at those two positions, so it will be fun to watch who steps up this spring and summer.
Ultimately, Butch Jones says he is more excited than he’s ever been for this off-season.
Jones: In all my years of coaching, this is the most excited I’ve been for an offseason that I can remember
He should be excited. The Vols are quickly building a solid foundation and have one of the top recruiting classes in that nation coming in next season. Jones talked about the process, admitting that he’s as impatient as anyone, but acknowledging that there is no “quick fix”.
Jones: Losing is not an option. Will not be tolerated here at Tennessee. But there’s also steps in the process. We have to focus on the process”
As far as the quarterback battles goes, Jones said that all four quarterbacks will be healthy heading into spring practice. Jones said that Justin Worley, who was injured against Alabama, has resumed throwing.
It’s going to be a fun spring, as you can feel the momentum in talent starting to sway toward the Vols.