KNOXVILLE — At 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds, Jason Carr already was pretty hard to miss on Tennessee's practice fields.
With a cast on his hand, wrapped into a massive club, it's even easier to identify the defensive tackle.
The rising sophomore, a former four-star recruit out of White Station High School in Memphis, isn't too far away from relocating space on the practice field and switching meeting rooms. Volunteers coach Butch Jones said following Thursday's practice that Carr is close to a move to the offensive line.
"He's one of those individuals right now, the clock is ticking for him," Jones said. "We need him to step it up. There's a possibility we may explore moving him to offense. The sense of urgency has to really pick up for Jason."
Carr was one of the first big recruiting coups for Jones and his staff when they held onto him even after the longtime Tennessee commitment took a January official visit to Alabama last year.
After playing in the Vols' first three games last season, Carr didn't play the rest of the season and was a continual target of Jones's motivational jabs in practices.
Though it's far too early to make judgments on whether Carr is living up to his recruiting billing, Jones said the coaches have explored moving him across the line of scrimmage to offensive tackle "for a while." The Vols are shorter on depth on their offensive line, particularly with six new defensive linemen showing up in the summer, and switching positions may help Carr get on the field more.
"It's a combination of both," Jones said. "It's suited with his talents, and we're always going to play with the defensive line first. We'll see. He still has some few practices before we make that decision, but first of all, it's where every individual can help you and help the team win. We'll make that assessment. We're continue to evaluate him as we go."
In the Mixon
After the team stretching periods, Jones usually calls for the circle drill, where two players face off and try to push each other to the edge of a circle formed by their teammates.
Thursday, he made freshman defensive tackle Dimarya Mixon go three straight turns against progressively tougher opponents. After holding his own against freshman Ray Raulerson and first-team right guard Kyler Kerbyson, he got pancaked by left guard Marcus Jackson.
The 6-3, 263-pounder from Texas signed with Nebraska in 2013, but after failing to qualify academically, the three-star prospect didn't play football last fall. The Vols then landed him and had him enroll in January.
Now Tennessee is pushing Mixon through what Jones called his "developmental phase" to see how much he can help.
"He's just learning the discipline that it takes, the toughness it takes, but also the mentality that you've got to have snap in and snap out," Jones said. "He's done a very, very good job, but again, he's young and he's developing.
"That's the thing, is we don't have time right now to take our time and just sit them and develop them. These individuals are playing come football season, so a sense of urgency in everything that they do, everything is magnified just because of our youth. We have to get them ready to play."
With Brendan Downs (knee) and A.J. Branisel (ACL) sidelined with injuries this spring, Tennessee is able to give freshman tight ends Daniel Helm and Ethan Wolf all the work they can handle.
The duo appear to be doing plenty with it, too.
"They're every bit as good as we thought they were in the recruiting process," Jones said. "Both of them are gonna play as true freshmen, and I thought Ethan had one of his better days today. Daniel continues to develop, but I've been very, very pleased with both. These two individuals should be in high school right now.
"They're extremely competitive, they're very intelligent, they're tough, they're tough-minded and they can catch the football. Both of them are playmakers on offense for us, so I've been very excited about those two individuals."
Nearly 300 high school coaches were in attendance for Thursday's practice, and Jones said he's expecting in the range of 500 to attend this weekend's annual spring coaching clinic. The keynote speaker is new Tennessee Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt. The coaches also will attend Saturday's third spring scrimmage in Neyland Stadium.
The Vols also are hosting appreciation days for university faculty and students to cap a busy Saturday.
As for his team, Jones wants to see more toughness and better tackling from the defense.
"We need to see a much, much more physical football team, a team that can grind it and work through and compete and make plays," he said. "That was one of our things we spoke about when spring ball began, is who are our playmakers on offense and defense.
"We need to still find out, so Saturday's a very, very big day for us in terms of evaluation and continuing to improve as a football team."
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 ...