KNOXVILLE-Jacques Smith's role last fall as a freshman was primarily as a pass-rushing spark off the Tennessee bench.
With two elder starters at defensive end gone and another sidelined with an injury, now's the time for the former Ooltewah High School star to step into a much more important role for the Volunteers.
And given that the Vols have just three healthy scholarship ends on the roster this spring, Smith, Corey Miller from Wellford, S.C., and junior-to-be Willie Bohannon from Mobile, Ala., are probably in a more desperate situation than they might have liked.
The departures of Chris Walker and Gerald Williams and Ben Martin's second Achilles' tendon injury in a six-month span mean it's a crucial spring for that trio to develop into consistent, dependable players. Miller and Smith in particular gave glimpses as freshmen during the 2010 season of bright futures.
That future began this week.
"The main thing we talked about is wanting to be the best, wanting to do everything and trying to set a standard," said Miller, who has become one of Smith's closest friends. "Me and Jacques, we're like brothers and our goal is to just do the best that we can."