KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee football team has entered its second week of preseason camp and had its eighth practice on Saturday.
The Times Free Press makes three observations from everything seen through the first week:
» The offensive line situation is fluid: If the season started today, it would appear four positions have been solidified for the time being. Only one senior — center Brandon Kennedy — is among the five who go through drills first, with two juniors, left guard Trey Smith and right tackle Marcus Tatum, and a freshman, left tackle Wanya Morris, the others who appear to take first-team reps exclusively. That leaves only right guard, and from what the Volunteers have shown during periods open to the media, junior Riley Locklear and sophomore K'Rojhn Calbert appear to be the main ones battling there. Freshman Darnell Wright has been battling Tatum at right tackle, but it appears the 6-foot-6, 316-pounder has been able to hold off the highly touted Wright to date. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney noted last week that he would like to get a primary group and run with it to build chemistry, so it will be interesting to see how things shake out closer to the Aug. 30 opener against Georgia State.
» Same with the defensive line: The loss of Emmit Gooden to a torn ACL deprived the Vols of their most experienced member of the group. It's been interesting to see Michigan transfer Aubrey Solomon get exclusively first-team reps, considering the 6-foot-5, 299-pounder still hasn't received news from the NCAA regarding a waiver that would allow him to play immediately. Solomon was with junior college transfer Darel Middleton and junior Matthew Butler in drills, but much like the offensive line, it's going to be a fluid situation. The defensive line is different in that multiple bodies will be shuffled in for different defenses, so the Vols will need players such as sophomore John Mincey, redshirt freshmen Greg Emerson and Kingston Harris, true freshman Elijah Simmons and junior college transfer Savion Williams — who has struggled so far — to take a step forward.
» The offense could surprise: Chaney's hiring brought an experienced, talented offensive mind to the coaching staff. If the offensive line can take a step forward this season, the Vols could be better than some expect considering they have a returning starter, Jarrett Guarantano — a better player than some give him credit for — at quarterback, a talented group of running backs, a dual-threat tight end and quality, experienced receivers. Chaney doesn't have a position group he coaches, which has allowed him to roam and observe everything. From the parts of practices I've seen, he always seems to end up at the offensive line, which isn't surprising at all because it's the key to the Vols' success this season.
Stay with the Times Free Press for continuing coverage.