KNOXVILLE — Jacques Smith desperately wanted to put on pads and practice with his future University of Tennessee teammates Friday afternoon in Neyland Stadium.
And the chiseled Ooltewah High School junior looked like a typical college player sitting out in street clothes.
“I can’t wait,” Smith said later in the day. “Days like this get me excited.
“I like to get up here every chance I get, especially on days like this. I just have this great feeling every time I’m up here.”
Smith will have to wait a little longer. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound defensive end claimed to be “way ahead” of Ooltewah’s curriculum standards and hopes to enroll at UT in January.
“I’m trying to get a head start, cut that year off and basically be ready like a sophomore my first season,” Smith said.
Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin and his assistants can’t discuss unsigned prospects, but the attention they gave Smith on Friday made them seem just as antsy to get the player on campus.
Smith was named the nation’s No. 59 overall prospect for 2010 by Rivals.com, and Scout.com slotted him No. 22 overall. He collected 80 tackles, 29 stops for loss and 13 sacks as an Owls junior.
UT junior-to-be Chris Walker, a smaller defensive end with a frame similar to Smith’s, has emerged as one of the Volunteers’ best players this spring. Smith said defensive line coach Ed Orgeron has repeatedly, and not too subtly, mentioned that to him.
“This scheme is really good, and they really let them linemen loose to do what they do, because we have such a good secondary,” Smith said. “We have so many secondary athletes like Eric Berry, so they don’t have to worry about the front four.”
In the meantime, Smith said his attention was focused on helping the Owls to a big season and recruiting some of the Southeast’s best players to join him in Knoxville.
“I follow (recruiting) a lot,” he said. “I’m really trying to look at players in Tennessee that we need to keep here.”
A spring full of sunny news for UT’s primary defensive line soured a little Saturday, when Kiffin said senior-to-be Wes Brown’s sore right knee would probably require surgery.
Brown, who started all 12 games at end last season but has played mostly at tackle this spring, didn’t scrimmage Friday and probably will be shut down this week, according to the coach.
“It’s been bothering him, and I think it got a little bit worse,” Kiffin said. “It might just be time to fix it.”
Senior-to-be tight end Jeff Cottam also missed Friday’s work with an undisclosed head injury. Cottam exercised on the side Friday with Brown and the team’s other injured players.
Starting wide receiver Gerald Jones had ice on his right hand after the scrimmage. He said he’s practiced through soreness in his ring finger for more than two weeks.
“I think it’s a jam, but I don’t know, really,” Jones said. “It’s sore, but I don’t think it’s anything serious. ... Things like this happen in football.”
The Vols are scheduled to practice Tuesday and Thursday. The Orange and White game is set for 3 p.m. Saturday.