"When the games get close, obviously, I'm going to stay with my more veteran guys," Pearl said recently.
The two Vols most likely to lose their minutes once the level of opposition rises are sophomore Renaldo Woolridge and freshman Kenny Hall. Woolridge played just four minutes and Hall two in Wednesday night's 78-66 defeat of ETSU. Neither saw action in the second half, when the Vols were struggling to put away the scrappy Bucs.
"You didn't see Kenny Hall or Renaldo Woolridge in the game in the second half," Pearl noted. "That's just because the game was closer."
Both Woolridge and Hall happen to play power forward, Tennessee's most well-fortified position. The Vols have an All-American in Tyler Smith, and have another standout power forward in fellow senior Wayne Chism, who starts in the post.
"I'm glad Renaldo and Kenny, even though they aren't getting to play as much, are out there," Pearl said. "It's just that they live at a position where there's Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism, and those two guys are seniors."
Woolridge, a 6-9, 208-pounder, missed the 2009-10 opener due to injury but distinguished himself in Game 2 by scoring 11 points in 14 minutes. His playing time since then, however, has dwindled to 8, 8, 1, 3, and 4 minutes.
Hall, a 6-9, 220-pounder, averaged 13.3 minutes in Games 1-3 but averaged just 4.5 minutes in Games 4-7.
Woolridge and Hall are gifted athletes who will make valuable contributions to Tennessee's program. Those contributions may not be forthcoming this year, however.
"When you're looking at Renaldo Woolridge and Kenny Hall, you're looking at the future guys in our front line," Pearl said. "But right now they're behind a couple of seniors who are pretty dominant players."