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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee’s new depth chart released on Monday didn’t reveal any major surprises, but it did show the Vols’ depth issues with more vivid clarity.
The receiver spot, for example, may lack SEC talent or experience. But it doesn’t lack in numbers. The defensive tackle position has SEC-level talent, but worrisome depth. The cornerback spot? Well, some fear it has all the above.
The chart above is my best interpretation of Tennessee’s complete depth chart, listing every player on the roster. (Some late-arriving walk-ons are not yet listed, as they have not been officially added to the roster. That could happen as soon as today).
A few things I found interesting…
* Coaches didn’t even have to list a third running back on the depth chart, but they did. And it was Tom Smith, not Alden Hill. We’ve heard a lot about Hill since the spring, but Smith might as well have been on a milk carton for the last three years.
* With a dozen scholarship receivers and some serviceable walk-ons on the roster, competition has helped foster a much improved receiving corps. That competition could also leave some familiar names out of the rotation. Paul Harris and Drae Bowles are in danger of being lost in the shuffle. Also, although we’ve heard good things about Johnathon Johnson, it appears he will have to fight to get reps. The competition won’t let up, as another wave of young receivers arrives next summer.
* Offensive line depth also appears much less dire than it did in the spring. The Vols have at least eight and perhaps nine linemen they would feel pretty good about throwing into the fire. The 2014 season could still be an ordeal, but UT appears better equipped to handle injuries or adversity in 2013.
* Breaking up the line into tackles and ends demonstrates the need for continued recruiting on the interior. If Daniel Hood, Daniel McCullers and Mo Couch stay healthy all year, this group should be fine. But the unit has limited experience after that.
On the ends, the depth has already paid off. Injuries to Jacques Smith and Corey Vereen were unfortunate, but hardly crises. Their return in a few weeks will bolster what is a very deep unit. The three true freshmen could play or redshirt based on coaches’ preferences and their roles on special teams. But they won’t be forced into action.
* At linebacker, there are few impact players behind the starting lineup, but there are enough bodies to allow UT to piece together a solution for any injury.
* In the secondary, freshman cornerback Cameron Sutton will have to grow up fast. Keeping him healthy and able to play a lot of snaps will be crucial until the Vols are able to develop more options behind him.
I’ll update the chart with more walk-ons as they become available. Let me know if I missed anyone or you think I ranked someone unfairly.