Tennesse Vols look to youth

Tennesse Vols look to youth

June 10th, 2013 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

Vols T logo

KNOXVILLE - The "Help Wanted" sign is lit outside of a few positional meeting rooms inside Tennessee's football complex.

Well, not really.

The Volunteers do need some help at some positions, though, and they hope some players in the incoming freshman class that arrived on campus for the start of summer classes late last month can make some immediate contributions.

At cornerback, where Tennessee left spring practice with vacancies behind likely starters Justin Coleman and junior college transfer Riyahd Jones, Malik Foreman hopes to fill that void.

"I like corner a lot," the former Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett High School athlete said a couple of days before moving to Knoxville two weeks ago. "I like having to lock down a receiver, and that's just where I naturally was. You have to have a certain mindset to play corner, and I think I have that."

The one-time Vanderbilt commitment played quarterback, cornerback and returned kicks -- another area where he said he's been told he'll have a chance to play -- in high school. In addition to leading one of the Tri-Cities' top football programs, the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder also was a standout track athlete, though pulled hamstrings in each leg sidelined him this spring. He finished third in Class AAA in the 100-meter dash at the state track meet a year ago.

The Vols could use that speed in the secondary, but corner is typically a tricky spot to insert a first-year player like Foreman or Cameron Sutton, another player Tennessee signed as an athlete and is expected to plug in initially at corner.

"I'm sure it's going to be a lot to learn with the schemes and the checks and reading the offense and stuff like that," Foreman acknowledged. "I'll get used to it when I get down there. It'll just have to take some getting used to."

Though incoming quarterbacks Josh Dobbs and Riley Ferguson grab most of the attention among Tennessee's new crop of freshmen, other rookies could emerge when training camp begins in August following the summer workout program.

Though MarQuez North won't add any experience to the a young receiving corps, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound wideout, a Charlotte product who was the highest-rated prospect inTennessee's signing class, faces some pressure to be ready immediately given the Vols' spring struggles at the position.

Justin King ended spring as Tennessee's lone healthy tight end, so A.J. Branisel and Woody Quinn, the 6-foot-6 former volleyball player with a combination of size and athleticism that intrigued the Vols' coaching staff, could get looks there.

After early enrollee Corey Vereen made some noise at defensive end during spring practice, Tennessee adds three more defensive lineman, most notably 6-foot-6, 280-pound Jason Carr out of Memphis, to the mix along with Malik Brown and Jaylen Miller.

The Vols signed four defensive lineman and three offensive lineman who figure to make a bigger impact down the road when six senior defensive linemen and likely five of Tennessee's top six offensive lineman leave after this season.

Of the 13 high school players Tennessee signed in 2012 still in the program, only four played last season, while nine redshirted. The Vols played more than a dozen freshmen in 2010 and 2011.

It's far too early to tell how those numbers will shake out for this class, but the Vols certainly would like to see a couple new faces make some splashes.

"They said that if I come down and I work my butt off and get everything down like all the schemes and coverages," Foreman said, "that I'll more than likely be playing a lot."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.