Spring Fever: Three Vols Position Battles to Watch for Spring Practice


Spring Fever is a column that breaks down Tennessee’s spring football practice. From position battles to defensive and offensive philosophies, the goal is to break down how the Volunteers are shaping up through the spring.

Have you ever seen the old SportsCenter segment, ‘Did you know?’ If so, you are like me, and have the memory of an elephant. Also you have an uncanny love for random bits of information.

Here goes my version of ‘Did you know’ with an All For Tennessee spin.

Did you know that the Tennessee Volunteers begin Spring Football practice in a mere 19 days. Yes folks, it’s time to dust off those shoulder pads, take the helmets off the shelf, break out the No. 16 jerseys again.

So I thought, what could be more fun than breaking down some fun position battles in the upcoming season. I’ll highlight some positions that could be highly competitive and get you prepared for when the Vols take the field this March and make their quest to return back to their glory days.

Running Back

This was a given if you followed Tennessee last season. Departing-Senior Tauren Poole did a bang-up job at RB but the position was inconsistent all season and really lacked a difference maker. This season, Marlin Lane, Raijon Neal, and Davante Bourque all seem to be the front-runners to make a play for the starting job.

Lane is a sophomore who has loft expectations but suffered some aggravation to an old knee injury later in the season and was a non-factor down the stretch. He contributed in the first game, scoring agianst Montana so the potential to be the bell-cow is certainly there.  Lane showed flashes with exciting runs against Cincinatti, Montana, and others, but ultimately he hit the freshman wall and never recovered.

Neal is a bit of a hybrid at RB. He played out at WR last season in Jim Chaney’s offense and showed glimpses but had trouble holding the football. Against Georgia he had fumbles on two consecutive carries and essentially ended any confidence the coaches had instilled in him. Neal has speed and clocked in at a 4.28 40-yard-dash last spring, but the key here is finding a place for Raijon to contribute and use that speed.

Bourque is a true freshman with lofty expectations, much like Lane. Dooley nabbed Bourque from LSU and many of the coaches feel he has a game that resembles Darren McFadden being that he is taller but is quick and strong. Many UT fans are hoping Bourque can come in a fill that void at RB of a play maker.

Prediction: I think Lane starts and Bourque is his change of pace back with his carries increasing as the year goes along.


Another contested position, there is a log-jam here with a ton of solid players, but the key for the Vols is finding a player to consistently contribute on a high level. Note, Prentiss Waggner should be locked in as the other CB so the position being battled for is the No. 2 corner spot. I also won’t include Eric Gordon as he has been solid and is locked in as the Nickel corner. Izauea Lanier Marsalis Teague, and  Justin Coleman all are vying for this position.

Lanier was a JUCO player last season who stepped in and provided stability at the position when Prentiss Waggner was swapped to Safety to make up for the loss of Janzen Jackson among other things. Izauea was solid the entire season and remains the favorite to take the position home.

Teague had a tough year last season. He began at WR his freshman year under Lane Kiffin but was switched to corner to fill that position need when Coach Dooley stepped in and his inconsistency showed many times last season as he was burned multiple times, most notably against Georgia and LSU as he was subsequently benched soon after.

Coleman is the wildcard here. I like Coleman. He has talent and, if he become more consistent, can contribute at an SEC level. He was burned against Montana and other teams and looked spotty at times but those are what some would call, growing pains. Look for Coleman to learn from these experiences and make an impact for UT next season.

Prediction: I think Lanier is the guy to start the season but I think Coleman has the talent to take over the position if he plays consistent enough.


I’m deeming Brian Randolph a starter at one of the safety spots after his solid freshmen season so the spot open is the opposite safety position. Brent Brewer would be a lock for the spot but he tore his ACL last season and even before that wasn’t having the strongest year. Coach Dooley made a comment last season and stated that just because a player was starting that it didn’t mean that they were an SEC level starter, it may mean that they are the best option they had. Talent has influxed the position as LaDarrell McNeil and Byron Moore both could contend for this spot.

Brewer is the returning starter and has the SEC experience, but he is a former MLB player and seemed to be caught out of position a few times last season. He provides a solid defender for the Vols but he is not a difference maker who can really impact a game from the safety position.

Moore was a solid contributor last season and really began to pick things up as the season went along. Many reported he showed up out of shape to spring practice and being a JUCO player it only put him that much further behind. Moore has all the intangibles to be a player at the safety position but for the time being he could be a stop-gap to a more talented player.

McNeil, one of the crown jewels of the past recruiting class, looks like he could be a player who could seriously contend for a starting spot even as a freshmen. This all depends on how he ready he is and how quickly he takes in that playbook, but if McNeil is to come in prepared and focused he could be the difference maker Tennessee has been known for having at safety.

Prediction: I think Moore fills in for Brewer if he isn’t ready come time for the season but I think McNeil takes over by mid-season and makes a big impact. If you can’t tell, I really like Mr. McNeil.