O&W preview

Quite a few key positions remain unsettled as Tennessee's football team wraps up spring practice with today's Orange & White game (2 p.m. kickoff at Neyland Stadium). What follows is a recap of the battles to watch this afternoon:

WIDE RECEIVER: This is the most inexperienced and erratic position on the team, by far. Lucas Taylor has big-time athletic ability but has not translated potential into production. Josh Briscoe does a great job getting separation but is inconsistent catching the ball. Austin Rogers has speed but struggles with durability. Quintin Hancock has the potential to be another Robert Meachem but does not block well enough to suit his coaches. Casey Woods is limited athletically but has great size (6-5, 215) and instincts. Former Prep All-American Slick Shelley needs to step it up … and soon. Todd Campbell is a mid-term enrollee with an awful lot to learn.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Chris Scott is bidding to succeed Arron Sears as the left tackle, the guy entrusted with protecting the quarterback's blind side. If Scott can't handle the job, Eric Young (who started at right tackle in 2006) will have to change sides. Imposing sophomore Jacques McClendon has all-star potential at guard but has shown only occasional flashes. That's why he's currently stuck behind juniors Ramon Foster and Anthony Parker. Josh McNeil, the 2006 starter, is solid at center. Depth is a glaring concern. That's why UT needs Michael Frogg, Vladimir Richard, Steven Jones and Darius Myers to pick it up a notch in today's O&W game.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE: Tennessee struggled to stop the run last fall, and those struggles could continue this fall since the top three tackles of 2006 are gone. J.T. Mapu, Demonte Bolden and Dan Williams MUST play significantly better than they did last season if the Vols are to stop anyone. Walter Fisher looms as a key contributor but he missed spring practice due to injury. Chase Nelson and Victor Thomas are second-year players with some skills, while Donald Langley is a mid-term enrollee who'll need some refining before he's ready to contribute.

SECONDARY: Minus four of the top five defensive backs from last fall, Tennessee's challenge is obvious. Except for senior safety Jonathan Hefney, the rest of the cast is unproven. Roshaun Fellows started some at corner in 2004 and '05 but missed '06 due to surgery on a pectoral muscle. Antonio Gaines and Marsalous Johnson – both 5-9 and 180 pounds – are undersized guys with virtually no game experience. The other scholarship corner, Art Evans, is a mid-term enrollee who is still feeling his way along. Jarod Parrish, Antonio Wardlow, Ricardo Kemp, Sinclair Cannon and converted receiver JaKouri Williams are bidding for the safety spot opposite Hefney but none has seen enough game action to break a sweat. Although the defensive backs reportedly have done well this spring, keep in mind that they've been facing a Vol receiving corps that is nowhere near SEC level at this time.

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