KNOXVILLE — The irony is too strong to ignore.
Injuries have depleted Tennessee at tight end and prompted Greg King, the oft-injured linebacker who's now fully healthy, to make a position switch.
With Brendan Downs (dislocated kneecap) and Joseph Ayres (sprained ankle) sidelined, King worked with the Volunteers' tight ends and fullbacks during practice Sunday afternoon.
"It's an opening, it's a shot, we need it and I think I can do it," said King, a fourth-year junior from Memphis. "Linebacker and fullback and tight end are almost the same. You're either catching the ball and running a route or you're trying to knock a ball down. I look at it just like that."
The Vols essentially are down to Mychal Rivera, Ben Bartholomew and freshman Justin King at the tight end and fullback positions due to injuries and Cameron Clear's offseason dismissal. With less than two weeks before the season opener, a position switch was inevitable. The 6-foot-2, 239-pound Greg King was a nonfactor at linebacker, even though Tennessee is thin there, too.
"He's got the tight-end body type," coach Derek Dooley said. "He's not in the two-deep over there, but he's got some good qualities about him. He's got a good attitude."
King played offense and defense at Melrose High School, but he was hardly a two-way player. He joked that he had just one career reception and his offensive game consisted of "mostly blocking, cracking people." He made 130 tackles his senior year.
One of the few remaining members of Lane Kiffin's lone signing class, King burst onto the scene for Tennessee as a freshman. He made 28 tackles and even started twice in 2009 before multiple injuries, including at least three knee surgeries, derailed his career. He's played in just five games the past two seasons.
Dooley said he didn't know the likelihood of King helping the Vols.
"We're going to see how it does," said Dooley, a former tight ends coach at LSU and in the NFL. "We've got to get in and just evaluate him a couple of days to see if he's got the skill sets to do it to help us. Then you've obviously got to keep it real simple and get him to function.
"I've been in this position in the NFL. They bring a tight end in, and you've got to get him game-ready in five days. There's ways you can get a guy to function out there, but it's still a long haul to help you win."
Said King: "I'm hoping I can. I hope I can be that big factor right now. I think our team needs it, and I just want to give it my all."
What about him?
Moving Channing Fugate back to his original position at fullback would appear to make sense, but the junior is asserting himself some at linebacker. With Herman Lathers limited as the Vols manage their valuable senior, Fugate has seen plenty of action. After switching in the spring, the 6-1, 239-pound Kentuckian has settled in on defense, and he'll also help on special teams.
"He's doing great," Dooley said. "He's just a real tough, hard-nosed dependable player, and I'm glad we switched him to defense. He's going to play a lot for us."
Tight end Rivera (knee) and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (shoulder) continue to practice in red noncontact jerseys. ... After missing some practice time and both scrimmages dealing with a quadriceps injury, Lathers was back in action in a red jersey Sunday, and there doesn't seem to be much concern there. ... Receiver Alton "Pig" Howard was dressed and watching practice, but the freshman, who had foot surgery in early July, is still a couple of weeks away from returning.
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 ...