KNOXVILLE - Pig Howard's path back to the Tennessee football team remains on course.
The rising junior receiver, who missed spring practice for undisclosed personal reasons, will be a participant when the Volunteers' summer workout program begins in a couple of weeks, though his future still continues to be tenuous.
Tennessee coach Butch Jones told the Times Free Press in his office shortly after noon on Wednesday that Howard still must meet certain requirements, but remains on track to return.
"He's in here in mini-term, so he's here," Jones said. "When we start our official summer strength-and-conditioning program, he will be a part of it. He still has certain stipulations and requirements that must be met for him.
"It'll be ongoing throughout the summer months. A lot of it is laid out upon our player staff, but up until this point in time right now, he's done everything that's been required of him."
As a sophomore last season, Howard led Tennessee with 44 catches and three touchdown receptions, and his 388 receiving yards were second on the team behind only Marquez North. He had 116 yards of offense against Georgia in a game where he memorably fumbled reaching for the pylon in overtime of Tennessee's eventual 34-31 defeat.
During his absence this spring, the Vols were able to break in newcomers Von Pearson, a junior college transfer who assumed Howard's role in the important slot position, and Josh Malone, a freshman and former five-star recruit.
Howard's return always seemed unlikely, but it appears on track for now.
One of Howard's requirements, laid out jointly by Jones and Tennessee's 12-man player staff, was to attend classes in what the university calls the mini-term, a three-week period of classes in May between the end of the spring semester and the start of the summer session's first term.
"That's part of leadership and ownership, is they mapped out certain criteria, responsibilities that he must live up to," Jones explained. "If he does those, he'll be a member of our football program moving forward in August. I meet with them all the time, and I agreed with those so it's kind of a joint effort.
"But the great thing is it's gonna be and is being policed; it's being run, adhered to and administered by the player staff."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.