"Saturday is a very important day for us as far as looking at situations and continuing to evaluate personnel," head coach Phillip Fulmer said Friday. "That's particularly so in the kicking game and from a depth standpoint."
Indeed. Several positions are clearcut in terms of a starter but not so clearcut in terms of backups.
- All five starters return from the 2007 offensive line but Vladimir Richard is the only proven reserve to this point. Fulmer would love to see four more blockers prove themselves trustworthy between now and Sept. 1.
- Tight end might be the most unsettled position on the team. FSU transfer Brandon Warren started last Saturday's scrimmage but has not yet been ruled eligible for 2008. Jeff Cottam started six games last fall but has been slow recovering from a fractured fibula suffered last spring. Luke Stocker is having a very good preseason and is locked in a three-way battle with Warren and Cottam for supremacy at the position.
- At receiver, the Vols are trying to whittle a list of nine contenders to six. Lucas Taylor, Austin Rogers, Josh Briscoe and Gerald Jones appear to be locks. The other two spots are up for grabs among Denarius Moore, Quintin Hancock, Ahmad Paige, Tyler Maples and Todd Campbell.
The story is much the same on defense: The starters appear set at most positions but the second-team jobs are not.
- Rico McCoy (weakside) and Ellix Wilson (middle) are set as first-team linebackers. Nevin McKenzie took a big step toward locking down the strongside spot last Saturday but Adam Myers-White remains in the running. Savion Frazier is battling juco transfer Gerald Williams and LaMarcus Thompson for the backup berth behind McCoy, while Nick Reveiz, Thompson and Chris Donald are vying for second-team snaps behind Wilson.
The kicking chores appear set, with Daniel Lincoln handling placements and Chad Cunningham handling the punting chores. Each figures to back up the other one.
As noted in an earlier article, Tennessee's return game remains very much up in the air with roughly a dozen candidates bidding to field kickoffs and punts.