Photo by Danny Parker

Camp Mailbag: Vols D-tackle depth, WR health, more

Questions aplenty with the 120th edition of the Tennessee Volunteers on the cusp of training camp. Let's dig in.

It's almost time to flip the calendar to August, which means helmets, pads and football.

Let's take a look at some pressing questions, courtesy some of InsideTennessee's premium members.

TuckerVol: With Shy Tuttle being limited and Alexis Johnson still out, this is a big camp for the other DT's on team 120. Do you expect to see Kongbo lining up more at DE or at DT? Who else needs to become a factor at DT, beyond Quay Picou?

Yes. Absolutely. Jonathan Kongbo is a large young man. His immense size tells me he could fill a variety of roles along Tennessee’s defensive front. His use depends on down and distance as well as how quickly he picks up on Steve Stripling’s teachings. Won’t say that Kongbo will play more tackle than end, but he has potential to be productive at both. He could be extremely hard to be single-blocked while inside at the three-technique on third-and-long, especially with the likes of Derek Barnett and Corey Vereen coming off the edge.

Shy Tuttle should be healthy and available by the time Tennessee gets into its four-game gauntlet. Kahlil McKenzie will provide more benefit than he did as a teenager. Danny O’Brien gives the Vols a fifth-year veteran with ample playing experience. Kendal Vickers started all 13 games a year ago and another year of experience at his new weight should mean slightly more production. If something happens to those four then Kongbo, Dimarya Mixon, Quay Picou or another option will have to emerge.

It’s hard to gauge how a person’s body is going to respond to rehab and treatment. A year ago I wouldn’t have thought that Curt Maggitt’s last collegiate snaps would come in the Oklahoma game. Tuttle must build strength back up in his repaired leg as it was noticeably smaller than the other leg when I was near him this spring. Don’t quite know how many snaps Tuttle could play against Florida, but he may be good to go for Alabama or Texas A&M.

trovol16: I’d like to know how Josh Malone and Preston Williams are looking.  Have they taken a step forward from last year?  Are they 100-percent healthy?

Both Josh Malone and Preston Williams should be fine physically for the start of camp barring anything unforeseen. Having the spring off from those 15 practices allowed Malone to get his feet under him and get some nagging injuries in the rearview. Williams needed the spring after being forced to sit out camp as a freshman. He was swimming much of the season and couldn’t find a rhythm. This November, he’ll reach that two-year mark from which he tore knee ligaments at Lovejoy (Ga.) High School. He started practicing without the bulky knee brace months ago, which was another step.

NorthBamaVol: Is McKenzie set to have a breakout year? Looks to be in great shape-- will it translate to the field?

The former Scout five-star prospect has most definitely gotten in far better shape now that he’s gotten a year of college under his belt, and he’s coming up on being a year removed from his knee scope procedure. He’s lost quite a bit of goo and figures to be available for many more snaps — and not just in short-yardage situations.

The one player who’s had success versus McKenzie in practice situations going one-on-one is Charles Mosley. Beyond that, McKenzie has collapsed pockets and tossed blockers nearly at will. He will be productive against the run. It may be asking too much to ask someone of his size and skills to accumulate more than a handful of sacks, but he will command double teams to free up others.

richvol: Sheriron Jones left briefly last year and I am sure it had to do, at least in part, with lack of playing time.  I would like to know how supportive the three are of each other.

College football teams are like any other in any other sport. While most are supportive of each other, that doesn’t mean all 105 players go to the same movies and don’t call ahead to restaurants for a table for 105. Teams have their clicks and relationships forge. Have never heard of any ill between Joshua Dobbs, Quinten Dormady and Sheriron Jones. Having spent time around all three both before and during their time in college, have also never gotten the sense that any of them think they’re better than everyone else. They’ve all been respectful and know the role of a quarterback. At the same time, they’re competitive young men. Everyone in that room with Mike DeBord and Nick Sheridan wants to be Tennessee’s starting quarterback, and they want to win. No coach wants a player that’s just fine with siting the bench.

Danny Parker


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