Things to watch for in Tennessee's spring game

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jarrett Guarantano prepares to throw a pass during Tennessee's practice on April 3.

KNOXVILLE - Redshirt sophomore Jarrett Guarantano will quarterback the first-team offense during Tennessee's spring game Saturday, but second-team quarterback Will McBride will have a few intriguing weapons at his disposal.

The 2 p.m. game at Neyland Stadium pits an "Orange" roster that features the first-team offense and second-team defense against a "White" roster comprised of the first-team defense and second-team offense.

Although several players will be out with injury and others have yet to arrive, the game will provide a glimpse at some position battles brewing ahead of the 2018 season under first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt.

McBride's offense for the White team includes speedy receivers Latrell Williams, Tyler Byrd and Jordan Murphy. The trio could present some matchup problems for a second-team secondary that includes several players working at new positions.

That dynamic will be one of several to keep an eye on during the game, which is free to attend and will be televised live on the SEC Network.

Will the offensive line hold up?

The Orange offensive line will be charged with protecting Guarantano against a defensive front that includes potential havoc-wreakers in Darrell Taylor, Jonathan Kongbo, Kyle Phillips and Shy Tuttle. That veteran quartet is sure to challenge a blocking line that includes true freshman Jerome Carvin, who enrolled early to participate in spring practices.

Guarantano will have the luxury of distributing to the ball to proven playmakers in Marquez Callaway and Ty Chandler, but how effective Guarantano is will depend largely on how an unproven line fares in protection.

Along with Carvin, the Orange team's offensive line includes redshirt sophomore Ryan Johnson, junior Marcus Tatum, sophomore Riley Locklear and redshirt junior Drew Richmond.

Standout offensive linemen Trey Smith and Chance Hall are listed on the Orange roster but won't play. Tennessee's coaches hope they are healthy enough to play this season, when junior college tranfer Jahmir Johnson and true freshman Tanner Antonutti also join the mix on the offensive line.

Can the top cornerbacks impress?

White team cornerbacks Shawn Shamburger, Baylen Buchanan and Terrell Bailey have an opportunity to show on a big stage that they are capable of filling Tennessee's void at cornerback. The Vols lost all three regulars from a position group that was not particularly strong in 2017.

Pruitt spends a lot of time during practices working with the cornerbacks, and the spring game will be one indication of how they are progressing in a new scheme.

Is Will Ignont ready?

Sophomore linebacker Will Ignont is getting the nod to play with the first-team defense in the spring game after he played sparingly as a freshman. With the statuses of would-be starting linebackers Daniel Bituli and Darrin Kirkland Jr. uncertain for the game, Ignont will get to make a public claim for 2018 playing time.

Other players to watch

Junior college transfer outside linebacker Jordan Allen is with the second-team defense. It appears that sophomore Deandre Johnson beat Allen out for a spot with the first team for the spring game, leaving Allen to compete against the second-team offense. He could be a potential impact player in the game from the edge rush position against an offensive line that will include some players who are walk-ons, true freshmen or new to the position.

On the subject of the second-team offensive line, it will be intriguing to monitor how true freshman Greg Emerson and redshirt freshman Eric Crosby perform after they switched from defensive line during spring practices. With four defensive linemen arriving this summer from the 2018 recruiting class, the chance for playing time could be better on the offensive line for Emerson and Crosby.

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