Shaw joins center derby

At the current rate, every player on Tennessee's football roster who weighs more than 270 pounds may get a chance to play center this season.

The latest entry in the center derby is Jarrod Shaw. The 6-4, 331-pound senior started the first six games at right guard but will move two steps to his left in practice this week as the Vols seek someone to unseat/back up first-teamer Darin Gooch.

"One of the things we're probably going to play around with a little bit is moving Shaw to center some," head coach Derek Dooley said today. "I'm not saying in front of Gooch, but we're going to look at Shaw there."

Shaw will be the sixth player to get a look at center this year. Here's a recap of his predecessors:

Senior Victor Thomas opened spring practice as the No. 1 center but couldn't hold the job. He is now starting at defensive tackle.

Junior Cody Pope moved over from guard and won the first-team center job late last spring but he hasn't played since Game 2 due to a concussion and a stinger.

Gooch, a junior college transfer, has filled in the past four games - neither distinguishing himself nor embarrassing himself.

Freshman James Stone got some work at center earlier this season but has been starting at left guard with JerQuari Schofield sidelined the past three weeks.

Sophomore Carson Anderson is listed as the No. 2 center on this week's depth chart but he also is the No. 2 left guard.

Tennessee's center problems would be solved if Pope could return to health. With each passing day, however, that prospect appears to grow dimmer and dimmer.

"I think the reality of Cody being back ... I mean, how much more can you wait?" Dooley said.

Even with extra time to rehabilitate their assorted health problems during last week's open date, the Vols will be short-handed when they host defending national champ Alabama Saturday night at Neyland Stadium.

Pope is not expected to play and Schofield is questionable.

"We're going to start working him back," Dooley said of Schofield. "We'll see today and the next day. But my history has been that (if he's available) it'll be a limited role.... I'm kind of assuming he's out and it's gravy (if he plays)."

Left tackle Dallas Thomas, who started Game 6 vs. Georgia despite a sprained ankle, appears to be doing well.

"Dallas, hopefully, will be 100 percent," Dooley said. "If he's not, that's a concern because he wasn't 100 percent last week and he struggled."

In addition to three of its top offensive linemen, Tennessee could be without one of its best defensive linemen vs. the Tide. Nose tackle Montori Hughes remains hobbled by a sprained ankle.

"Right now I'm considering him out," Dooley said. "We'll find out more in the next two days."

Strong safety Prentiss Waggner started vs. Georgia but hasn't practiced in two weeks and may not practice this week, either.

"We've been holding Prentiss Waggner out of contact," Dooley said. "We held him out of contact the open week, we held him out of contact the week before Georgia. We're going to have to hold him out of contact this week, so that's not good. We're about to play two of the best backs in the country (Bama's Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson) and we've got to tackle."

The bad news keeps coming. Sophomore Greg King, arguably the Vols' most physically gifted linebacker, appears done for the year after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee.

"I think Greg's got a great future here but he hasn't been full-go since I got here," Dooley said. "We went in and scoped him, cleaned it out a little bit - and it needed it - so he's probably going to be on the shelf for the year."

The Vols are hoping for better news on kicker Daniel Lincoln. He made his first seven field goals but has missed the past two games due to a pulled muscle. Lincoln will test his injured leg in practice this afternoon.

"Daniel Lincoln ... we'll find out today," Dooley said. "He's going to kick today. If he has any problems today, the likelihood of him kicking (vs. Bama) is not very good."

His injury report completed, the coach flashed a smug grin and added: "Other than that, we've got a pretty healthy squad that we'll be fielding on Saturday."

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