The Tennessee Volunteers will be hard-pressed to top last year's announced crowd of 68,548 at the Orange & White spring football game.
If indeed it is a game.
Third-year coach Butch Jones is dealing with a plethora of injuries and offseason surgeries as the Vols approach their March 24 start to spring practice. Tennessee's spring game is set for April 25, but Jones will have just five defensive linemen available for the 15 upcoming workouts and one tailback who has been cleared for contact.
"We do have to modify that, and I think that's symbolic in terms of where we still are as a program," Jones said Friday. "We have a shortage of defensive linemen, running backs and wide receivers. The spring game will still be very entertaining. We'll still play football and scrimmage, but we'll also do more competitive one-on-one battles.
"We did that a little bit last year, and our fans really enjoyed that. So we'll make it an event, but I think it will be more of a spring event than a spring game."
Jones was a guest on "Press Row" on ESPN 105.1 FM.
With sophomore and top returning rusher Jalen Hurd limited this spring, the tailback spotlight will be on Alvin Kamara. The 2013 Alabama signee redshirted with the Crimson Tide and played last season at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, where he rushed for 1,211 yards and 18 touchdowns in nine games (134.6 yards per game).
"We'll have a couple of walk-on running backs with Alvin, and then we'll pick our spots with Jalen as well," Jones said. "We just have to be creative, and we may have to take more breaks than we've ever taken in practice, but we can't compromise our style of play and we can't compromise getting individuals valuable reps.
"You will see a lot more half-line running situations and a lot more half-line passing situations, but we have to continue to move forward and develop this football team."
While notable defensive linemen such as Derek Barnett and Curt Maggitt are sitting out, Jones said this spring will be valuable for youthful reserves Dimarya Mixon and Kendal Vickers. He added that when healthy players are practicing this spring, the injured players will lift, and when the healthy players are lifting, the injured players will have walk-through opportunities.
"It's going to challenge how we practice having only five defensive linemen," Jones said. "We're going to have to do a lot of creative things to continue to develop this very young team. We could still arguably be the youngest team in country.
"It's one thing to be older, but we need to be better as well."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.