HOOVER, Ala. — Sporting a light blue suit and bowtie, Jalen Reeves-Maybin was in good spirits as he made the rounds at SEC media days here Tuesday.
It made you forget about the surgery Tennessee's most valuable defensive player underwent only a few months ago.
Reeves-Maybin's recovery from a shoulder injury that ended his spring practice remains ongoing, though the senior hardly seems concerned it still will be an issue when the season opens in September.
"It's been going well," said Reeves-Maybin, the Volunteers' leading tackler the past two seasons. "I'm right on track. As long as I continue to progress. I should be ready to go during camp. I'm just rehabbing every day, grinding every day and trying to get all my range of motion and all my strength back. It's been a good process."
The surgery forced Reeves-Maybin to wear a sling for a few weeks, but he shed the contraption earlier this summer and resumed working out with the team while continuing the rehabilitation process.
Given his track record and the question marks behind him on the depth chart, Tennessee likely will play it safe with their star linebacker when preseason practice begins in less than three weeks.
"I'm doing stuff in the weightroom," Reeves-Maybin said. "I've been doing some advanced therapy and rehab and stuff like that. It feels great."
The federal lawsuit alleging Tennessee created a "hostile sexual environment" in its handling of sexual assault cases involving athletes, including six football players, brought a wave of negative publicity and cast a storm cloud over the program when it was filed in February.
The $2.48 million settlement the university reached with the plaintiffs earlier this month does lift the cloud and prevent further negative recruiting for Jones and the Vols, but the coach isn't closing the chapter on the lawsuit's impact on his program.
"I don't view it as a relief," Jones said. "I don't view it as put behind us. I think that's a serious matter, a serious issue that every college, every university and every college campus faces, and it's also in society as well. We'll continue to have that as a learning experience for our football program.
"We'll continue our year-round education with our 'Fourth-and-1 Wednesdays.' We've been very, very proactive with that and we'll continue to be that. I think we've set the bar for all of college football with our speakers in those programs.
"That's something that we take very seriously. I don't ever look at it as that being behind us or in the rearview mirror. We'll always points toward that as a learning opportunity."
'Hopeful' on Tuttle
One of Tennessee's biggest question marks heading into the preseason is the ongoing recovery of defensive tackle Shy Tuttle, who was starting to turn a corner as a freshman when he suffered a significant injury against Georgia last October.
The 300-pounder's road back from a broken leg and torn ankle ligaments never was going to be easy, and as the season nears Tennessee continues to hope Tuttle will be ready to go by the opening game.
"We're hopeful," Jones said. "Right now he'll actually start running next week. He's gone through all the strength and conditioning activities, but for him it's going to be how much he can handle. I see him more being available maybe toward the middle of training camp.
"The thing we can't do is rush it. (Head trainer) Jason McVeigh and our training staff have done a great job, and Shy has done a great job of getting to this point of where he's at. I think we'll know day by day when training camp hits, but we just have to do a great job of monitoring his activity."
Jones said the status of suspended defensive tackle Alexis Johnson remains unchanged.
New titles, more money?
Three of Tennessee's assistant coaches will have new titles this season.
First-year tight ends coach Larry Scott, hired from Miami in January, will be special teams coordinator. Running backs coach Robert Gillespie, also the team's recruiting coordinator, is now the Vols' assistant head coach on offense. Linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen is the run game defensive coordinator.
Raises typically come with the addition of such titles, but Tennessee has yet to release any updated salary information for the football coaching staff.
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.