KNOXVILLE — Tennessee resumed spring football practice Tuesday with a question mark at quarterback still intact.
There's one just as big still out there, too.
Coach Butch Jones dubbed kicker Michael Palardy the MVP of his first team, and since Palardy handled field goals, punting and kickoffs very well in 2013, the Volunteers must replace one player three times.
At kicker, it's an opportunity Knoxville native George Bullock is trying to grab this spring.
"I'm just trying to work as hard as I can every day," he said after Tuesday's practice. "No matter who's here, I'm trying to work as hard as I can each and every day. Having [Palardy] here was great. He'd help me and coach me a little bit, but having him gone doesn't make a difference between what I do."
As a senior, Palardy was a consistent 14-of-17 on field goals and became a weapon for Tennessee as a punter by averaging 44.5 yards on 63 boots and pinning 33 inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
Fifth-year senior Matt Darr, a highly rated punter out of California who was not a favorite of Jones due to his inconsistency in practice last season, is in line to handle Tennessee's punting duties, and Bullock and walk-on Derrick Brodus are atop the mix to handle place-kicking duties.
Some walk-ons also are getting looks this spring, and freshman Aaron Medley, one of the nation's highest-ranked specialists in the 2014 class, will arrive in the summer.
Bullock, out of West High School in Knoxville, redshirted in 2012 after breaking his leg in an August practice and did not get any action last season, and he's been wildly inconsistent so far this spring.
In Tennessee's second practice, he missed five straight kicks from around 45 yards out, and in the Vols' scrimmage before spring break, Bullock hit a 41-yard field goal before bouncing a 34-yarder off the upright.
"I'm just trying to get a lot of work with my snapper and holder," he said. "I'm trying to work a lot getting the timing down. I had a problem of actually going too fast, and that doesn't me quite as much time to see the ball before I hit. I'm just trying to get consistency."
Jones took a vested interest in his quarterbacks Tuesday, and based on his post-practice comments, the Vols don't appear nearing a resolution of that competition.
"I sat in all the quarterback meetings today," Jones said. "I like their note-taking. I checked all their notes. I like that process. We're going to be patient. We're going to find out who we can win with, and it's a long process with spring football, summer and then into August.
"We're going to do our due diligence every day, but I did like the mentality of that group today, and I liked their approach on Monday as well."
Maggitt on the move
Tennessee will use linebacker Curt Maggitt in a couple of different places on defense, but it's likely the Vols will use the talented junior, who missed last season after sitting out following a significant knee injury, more often as a rush end.
Now up to a career-high 248 pounds, Maggitt is happy to help at either linebacker or defensive end, but he lights up when he talks about rushing off the edge, and that's where Tennessee may need him the most after finishing last in the SEC in sacks with only 18 in 2013.
"You'll probably see me with my hand down a lot more than in the past," Maggitt said. "That's going to be good. We've got so many different packages and whatnot. I could have my hand down, I could be standing up, I could be in the box in a linebacker stance -- I'm going to be moving around a lot. But the majority of the time I'm going to have my hand down."
Maggitt beat freshman right tackle Coleman Thomas to deliver a big hit on quarterback Justin Worley in Tennessee's first scrimmage, and the Vols' defensive coaches have called him one of their best pass rushers.
Once he made the decision to redshirt last season, Maggitt worked primarily at defensive end for Tennessee's scout team, which allowed him to face NFL-bound tackles Antonio "Tiny" Richardson and Ja'Wuan James in practice every day.
"I think it helped the coaches figure out they want to put me at end," he joked.
Freshman receiver Josh Malone, the five-star recruit out of Station Camp High School in Middle Tennessee, drew praise from Jones, who said the 6-foot-3, 195-pounder "really looked fast and is really starting to play with a lot of confidence."
Malone was a big grab for Tennessee's 2014 class when he committed in December.
"The speed, burst and acceleration that we saw on film when we were recruiting him," Jones said, "we're starting to see that now on the practice field."
Tailback Marlin Lane was limited with a cast on his left hand and wrist in Tuesday's practice, and Jones said he'll remain that way for the near future.
Defensive tackle Jason Carr and defensive end Malik Brown are out with wrist injuries. Carr first had a cast on his right hand in Tennessee's scrimmage. Brown's outlook for the rest of spring is worse due to an injury on the opposite wrist from the one on which he had surgery last fall.
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 ...