Tennessee head football coach Derek Dooley answers questions at a news conference on Monday, March 21, 2011, in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee began spring practice on March 22. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
KNOXVILLE — With an offensive line short on bodies, Tennessee could hardly afford one tackle missing some or most of spring practice.
Now the Volunteers have two.
Rising sophomore Ja’Wuan James could miss the rest of spring practice with mononucleosis, coach Derek Dooley said after Tuesday’s practice started the second week of practice.
“We just found out,” Dooley said. “He’s probably done for the spring. That’s kind of a dagger. They did a blood test. We’re really short at tackles without Ja’Wuan — that’s disappointing.”
Marques Pair, who had ACL surgery after redshirting last fall, already is out for the spring. Stepping into James’ role with the Vols’ first-team offensive line is Alex Bullard, a Notre Dame transfer who’s still awaiting word from the NCAA about his eligibility for next season.
Bullard was a four-star prospect who signed with the Irish out of Brentwood Academy, but he came to UT in January after his father died of cancer last year.
“We’re going to put Bullard at right tackle,” Dooley said, “but we were really hoping to rep Bullard some at center. We were getting ready to do that to see if he could play center, but now our hands are tied a little bit at tackle.”
James’ illness prompted Dooley to break out his unique sense of humor.
“I told him I always thought mono you got from kissing girls, and so usually you get it at a young age,” the coach said. “Ja’Wuan kind of waited, I told him. ‘You must have waited to kiss your first girl until college. You’ve got mono, man. You know?’ I’d better be careful. I’m not going to go there.”
Point to safety
UT point guard Melvin Goins, fresh off completing his basketball eligibility, practiced for the first time with the defensive backs Tuesday following a meeting with Dooley on Monday.
“Melvin wanted to play and he hasn’t played [football] in a long time,” Dooley said. “I thought it was better for him to come out here now and get a little feel. We’re not going to throw him out there in the fire, and then after spring maybe he can decide if he wants to really invest in it. We’re going to kind of take it day to day.”
Goins, who’s generously listed at 5-foot-11, exhibited his athleticism and leaping ability on the basketball floor, but he hasn’t played organized football since high school.
“I see him as a point guard right now,” Dooley replied when asked if Goins would play safety or cornerback. “I can tell you when we play three-on-three, he’s on my team. We’re going to be good when we get into the offseason three-on-three hoops tournament.
“He averaged, I looked at the stats, 1.7 steals per game. I told him he’d make all-conference if he keeps up that pace in football.”
Milton hits gate
The noncontact red jersey made its spring debut Tuesday courtesy of receiver Matt Milton. The rising sophomore ran into a gate running a corner route during practice.
“We have helmets, so he’s OK,” Dooley quipped. “Now he’s out of contact for a day, but he’ll be back. He’s doing great. He’s got a lot of work to do, but he’s on the way.”
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...