KNOXVILLE — There doesn't appear to be a solution in sight to Tennessee's kicking question.
Whether the Volunteers turn to redshirt sophomore George Bullock or freshman Aaron Medley in the season opener against Utah State might not be known until shortly before kickoff of the game in eight days.
Second-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones conceded the battle between Bullock and Medley is "ongoing" after practice on a steaming Friday afternoon at Haslam Field.
"Would I have liked for it to have become a little more crystal clear? Absolutely, but that's not where we're at right now," the coach said.
"They're still pushing each other," Jones added, "but we'll see which one has more competitive character, which will be our kicker. It'll be ongoing. Whoever starts the Utah State [game], it doesn't give them the right and privilege to start against Arkansas State."
That seems fine for Bullock and Medley, neither of whom has kicked in a college game.
"It's a good competition," Medley said. "George is a great kicker, and I'm trying my best every day to make sure that I'm doing the things I need to be doing to get that starting job."
Jones sounded distraught when he said both kickers were "not there yet" with the desired consistency, and he specified that field goals 40 yards or closer should be automatic.
"We'd love to show perfection all the time, of course," Bullock said. "We're going to compete and do the best we can, no matter how long it goes. We'll leave that up to the coaches and trust their decision with whoever starts."
Medley said he expects a decision "close to game day," though neither kicker has been given a timetable.
"If it were me," he added, "it'd be a tough decision between us."
Jones told the Times Free Press that freshman tailback Derrell Scott is out with a foot injury and won't be ready for the season opener. The consensus four-star recruit from North Carolina missed a chunk of practice early in training camp with an injury but returned and began performing well.
The 5-foot-11, 194-pound Scott helped his Havelock High School team to three consecutive state championships and was the MVP in last year's title game with a 209-yard, three-touchdown performance.
Marlin Lane, freshman Jalen Hurd and Devrin Young figure to get most of the work out of Tennessee's backfield, and Justus Pickett, a walk-on Maryland transfer, also could get some work.
Offensive tackle Kyler Kerbyson was absent from Friday's practice to attend a funeral, and Dontavius Blair missed practice due to a class conflict.
Tennessee can expect the handful of freshmen and other first-year players making their debuts against the Aggies to have some nerves, and for some rookies the butterflies are here a week early.
"I'm nervous before every game," freshman defensive end Derek Barnett said. "High school games, I'd get nervous, but here there's so many people. I'm not used to all these people. It'll be a good experience."
Barnett, who is expected to play a big role for the Vols this season, said he'll stick to his usual pregame routine of music and prayers. He also said he had to shake some nerves before the open practice at Neyland Stadium last weekend.
"It was like halfway full," Barnett said, "and I'm like, 'Dang, I can't imagine this whole place with everybody in it.'"
To turn his recent push to a spot on the first-team defense at cornerback into a starting spot against Utah State, Michael Williams believes he just has to keep doing what he's been doing.
The 5-11, 186-pound redshirt sophomore originally signed with Maryland to play football in 2011, but he was granted his release to run track at Tennessee. The younger brother of former NFL safety Madieu Williams, Michael Williams is a 400-meter specialist who nearly carved out a role for the Vols last season.
"My confidence has always been high," he said. "The coaches have preached to me, 'Nobody can run by you.' I always take that into consideration, that I'm a track guy and I know I'm fast, so no one can run by me. I just take that into consideration and keep playing tough and physical and keep listening to the coaches."
"There's always been opportunities for me to play, and I've just got to take advantage of it."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 ...