Chaney 'tickled' with Vol progress

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With 10 starters returning to the Tennessee offense and the addition of a five-star signee, expectations from the Big Orange fan base continue to skyrocket as the season opener versus North Carolina State approaches.

The devil's advocate asks: "Why all the hype?" Sure, returning players means game experience and more physical maturity, but is the talent there to put points on the board against some of the stingiest defenses in the country like the Volunteers will face in 2012?

Regardless of the amount of talent, the consensus is that there is enough of it to score on every foe on the slate, especially with quarterback Tyler Bray healed from his broken thumb sustained last November, wide receiver Justin Hunter nearing 100-percent after tearing a knee ligament last September and the addition of former high school All-American tackle Antonio "Tiny" Richardson to the starting lineup.

The dead horse when conversations circulate around the Vol offense deals with the running game. Coordinator Jim Chaney has gone on record about how big of an influence first-year Tennessee running backs coach Jay Graham has been in that department, and Chaney is "tickled" by the progress the runners are making.

Depth at tight end is undoubtedly a major concern with former four-star Cameron Clear no longer on the roster, fifth-year senior Mychal Rivera nursing a knee sprain and former high school All-American Justin Meredith attempting to shake off hamstring issues. That leaves sophomore Brendan Downs and H-back Ben Bartholomew.

After seeing receivers Nyshier Oliver and Vincent Dallas pulled to the other side of the ball as now-defensive backs, Chaney did some thievery of his own to aid assistant coach Charlie Coiner with the talent pool at tight end. Former defensive tackle Joseph Ayres should help in short-yardage situations with his bulk and strength. Freshman Justin King was already running some quarterback in the Wildcat formation and has some familiarity on offense but appears to be done playing outside linebacker in his spare time — at least for now.

Hear more from Chaney in the video below as he spoke with the media after Wednesday morning's camp session:

Danny Parker is currently the Managing Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the InsideTennessee team July 2011.

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