KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The second and likely final full scrimmage of the season is this evening at Neyland Stadium.
Many of the starting positions have already been sorted out, but there are a few races still remaining. The scrimmage should also help coaches sort out depth behind the first team.
Here’s today’s 11…
1. There appear to be few major questions on offense, even on the line, which has used a consistent first team throughout camp.
The only real question was center James Stone, but he has never lost his grip on the job. He’ll be joined by guards Dallas Thomas and Zach Fulton and tackles Ja’Wuan James and Antonio “Tiny” Richardson.
2. Today might be running back Marlin Lane’s last preseason chance to push back into the conversation. Coaches say Lane hasn’t performed poorly, but junior Rajion Neal and sophomore Devrin Young are currently higher on the pecking order.
3. Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson hopes to get rid of the red jersey and play full contact today. It will be interesting for coaches to see how he responds against a more physical defense.
4. On the other side, Sal Sunseri will get a look at the reassembled defensive line in a game-type atmosphere. Maurice Couch said he’s had to learn his new role on the end but is feeling more comfortable. Dan McCullers and Dan Hood will both get plenty of snaps on the inside.
5. Derek Dooley on D-line depth: “I feel better about it than I did in the spring. Getting Dan [Hood] in there and then having (Darrington) Sentimore and Mo Couch coming on was really important, because if they didn’t we would be back to square one.”
6. The absence of senior Herman Lathers has put stress on the linebackers. Lathers won’t play in today’s scrimmage.
7. It’s unclear how much work the specialists will get today. It looks like Michael Palardy is in good shape to hold onto his kicking role. It’s less clear whether he’ll also get a chance to punt or if Matt Darr will lock down that job.
8. After today’s scrimmage, Saturday will be a low-key day except for Media Day in the afternoon. After practices Sunday and Monday, the team will focus on the start of classes Tuesday and Thursday.
9. Dooley probably won’t release a depth chart until late next week. I’m told there’s usually an update of sorts every week during the season.
10. Sophomore linebacker Curt Maggitt on the goal for tonight’s scrimmage: “We’re trying to get as close to perfection as possible.”
11. ESPN looked at the biggest games for hot-seat coaches this year, and decided the two biggest ones for Tennessee’s Derek Dooley will come relatively early — Week 1 against North Carolina State and Week 4 against Florida.
The margin between a 2-2 start and a 4-0 start could be very slim. If the latter happens, expectations will soar. If the Vols lose both of those big early games, a tough mid-season stretch will get even tougher.