KNOXVILLE — A fifth Tennessee freshman had his black helmet stripe removed on Friday morning, but it wasn't one of the obvious ones.
Guard Jashon Robertson, who began preseason training camp at defensive tackle, joined tailback Jalen Hurd, tight end Ethan Wolf, cornerback Emmanuel Moseley and defensive end Derek Barnett as the newcomers who have earned the right to have their stripes taken off.
"When we recruited him, we knew he brought value to both sides of the football," second-year Vols coach Butch Jones said after practice.
The 6-foot-3, 304-pound Robertson, a former state champion wrestler, has gotten some first-team work this week and impressed coaches with his toughness and quick learning ability.
He was a two-way lineman at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville and a long-time Vanderbilt commitment that joined Tennessee's class in January after James Franklin left the Commodores for Penn State.
"He's extremely smart, he's very intelligent, he's very instinctful and he plays with a good pad level," Jones said. "He was a good wrestler, so that has really helped him in understanding the leverage side of things. He's very bright, and he loves football.
"He's done a tremendous job, and he's continued to push the older guys we do have."
The Volunteers were back at practice on Friday morning at Haslam Field ahead of Saturday night's open practice at Neyland Stadium.
Here are some notes and observations from Friday's practice:
• Defensive end/linebacker Curt Maggitt has missed practice most of the week with an ankle injury, but he was out on the practice field wearing a protective boot on his right foot.
The injury-riddled fourth-year junior was upbeat about his status on Thursday.
"I'm all good," he said. "Just some minor things. I'm just taking it a day at a time, but I'm all good health-wise.
Maggitt said he, Tennessee's coaches and Jason McVeigh, the Vols' head athletic trainer "are on the same page" with his situation.
"The main thing for me is being ready to roll when Utah State comes in town," he said. "That's the goal. That's where we're headed to.
"I'm definitely going to be ready to roll."
Jones said after Friday's practice that it's "all precautionary" with Maggitt, who will practice on Saturday morning and sit out tomorrow night's open practice.
• Tennessee is experimenting with another possible position switch.
Freshman Neiko Creamer was signed as a receiver and switched to linebacker before spring practice began, but he swapped his orange jersey for a white No. 31 and worked with the tight ends on Friday.
"We're trying to find the best spot for Neiko," Jones said. "It's just moving him around. He may be at a number of different positions. He's a big-bodied athlete; now we're just trying to find the right fit for him."
The 6-foot-3, 229-pound freshman is the son of Andre Creamer, a four-year letterman who made 120 tackles and intercepted six passes as a defensive back and returned punts for the Vols in the 1980s.
• Jones said the Vols are also trying to find the "best fit" for freshman Jakob Johnson, who's gone back and forth between defensive end and linebacker.
The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder, originally from Germany, was a January enrollee and has been working at defensive end since the latter part of spring practice.
"One of the strengths that Jakob has is his ability to run, run and hit," Jones said. "We're gonna move him around a little bit to an outside linebacker position, try to get him standing up more and let him use his athleticism and his speed to run sideline to sideline."
Johnson played just one year of high school football after moving to the U.S., and the Vols knew he would need some time to develop.
"We knew when we recruited him," Jones said, "that we didn't know where he would be at his first year, but we would like his body of work year two, year three, year four."
• Some personnel items: Here was Tennessee's first-team kickoff coverage unit on Friday: kicker George Bullock; defensive backs Justin Coleman, Cam Sutton, Michael Williams, Devaun Swafford, LaDarrell McNeil and Lemond Johnson; and linebackers Bates, A.J. Johnson, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Elliott Berry.
Freshmen Moseley, Creamer, Cortez McDowell, Evan Berry, D'Andre Payne, along with junior college transfer linebacker Chris Weatherd, were among the second-team group.
• Receiver Vic Wharton and defensive Jaylen Miller remain in the "hole" on the side of practice, and freshman tailback Treyvon Paulk was a new addition on Friday. Safety Geraldo Orta did not practice. Tailback/return man Devrin Young was in a non-contact jersey.
Offensive linemen Mack Crowder and Dylan Wiesman were back at practice, albeit limited.
Freshman tailback Derrell Scott is finally out of a non-contact jersey, and Jones said he did some "very, very good things" in Friday's practice.
More coverage online and in Saturday's Times Free Press.
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 ...