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KNOXVILLE - Pageantry and newfound excitement aside, Tennessee's football coaches and players don't expect today's Orange and White game to resemble an exhibition.

Coach Lane Kiffin said the 15th and final practice of his first spring will be "the most important evaluation that we've had so far.

"To put our team into Neyland Stadium in front of our fans - which is where we have eight games next year - we've got to see how they perform in that situation," Kiffin said. "That's why we want so many fans there, because we want the energy and the noise and the Vol Walk, and see how they respond to it; see which guys it scares, and which guys rise to the top."

Few starting positions have been sealed and the most secure depth-chart topper - All-America safety Eric Berry - will be held from contact.

Here are five crucial areas for fans to study during today's game:

1. QUARTERBACK

Kiffin finally admitted what's seemed obvious for weeks, that senior-to-be Jonathan Crompton "seems to be the leader" for the starting quarterback spot.

The coach quickly added that younger players Nick Stephens and Chattanooga's B.J. Coleman are still No. 1 possibilities, though Coleman has spent most of the past two weeks with the second team and Stephens has struggled through a healed fracture in his throwing wrist.

"We've got a lot of information to get in," Kiffin said. "It's a game-like situation. It's in front of our people. It's in front of our fans at Neyland Stadium. That's going to be more important than anything that's happened ... how they perform on game day."

Coleman has piled up much better statistics in the major scrimmages this spring, but Crompton has undoubtedly been hamstrung by a first-team offensive line that hasn't contained the defense's No. 1 front four.

Stephens said last week that he expects the competition to continue into summer workouts and preseason camp, and Crompton said he's also "anticipated that. But like I told y'all the first day, I'm going to keep practicing like I'm the fifth-team guy. I've got to have that chip on my shoulder, and I'm going to go out there and I'm going to compete my butt off every day, no matter what."

2. RIGHT OFFENSIVE TACKLE

First-year UT offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said he's spent all 25 years of his coaching career worrying whether his tackles could contain opponents' defensive ends. This season won't be an exception.

Senior-to-be Chris Scott might never live up to his immense billing at left tackle, but he's a capable SEC player with no experience behind him. Right tackle is another matter, with several new faces fighting for the job. Candidates include Jarrod Shaw, Cody Pope, William Brimfield and former tight end Aaron Douglas.

"When you put yourselves in those third-and-long situations and you're forced to throw the football, you worry about those cheetah cats coming off the end on those offensive tackles," said Chaney, a former Purdue offensive coordinator and St. Louis Rams tight ends coach. "But we also have enough schemes and ways to help those young men be successful. We're not foolish enough to just set them out there and hang them out to dry.

"I think that's the one thing coming from the National Football League that benefits you. You're not always blessed with the two best tackles in football, so you always have to find creative ways to assist those young men. And we're ready to do that if we need to."

3. EVERY LINEBACKER BUT RICO MCCOY

An area that's become a rock for UT success the past two decades will likely enter this season as a big question mark.

"I think our (linebacker) situation isn't as strong as the secondary or our defensive line, so I think we just need to keep working more and more," defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said.

All-SEC weaksider Rico McCoy is UT's only seriously tested player at any of the three linebacker spots. Undersized former walk-on Nick Reveiz - kicker Fuad's son - has consistently impressed coaches at middle linebacker, holding off talented youngster Herman Lathers to this point.

Reveiz's younger brother, Shane, was surprisingly bracketed with LaMarcus Thompson as co-No. 1 strongside 'backer in the post-spring depth chart, with Savion Frazier still listed as No. 2 on the weakside.

4. FREE SAFETY

Demetrice Morley's second dismissal from the program left UT without a proven free safety to start alongside Berry.

Redshirted freshman Prentiss Waggner and former Dalton High School star Stephaun Raines were listed as co-starters on the post-spring depth chart, but former starting cornerback Dennis Rogan also practiced at the position. Highly touted incoming freshmen Darren Myles Jr. and Janzen Jackson also will get looks before the season opener.

"We're just moving people around right now, trying to get a good look at it," Monte Kiffin said. "We're fairly flexible there right now, but I don't know who it's going to be, for sure.

"It's going to be real battle there, with who is going to start. I don't think we'll know that until right close to game time, and I'm talking about getting close to the season."

5. SECOND-TEAM DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Monte Kiffin said senior-to-be Wes Brown, who underwent surgery to clean up both knees this week, will be a starter next season at defensive end or tackle.

Considering each depth chart, it looks like the former end will spend much more time at tackle.

Standout Dan Williams and surprising January enrollee Montori Hughes have been stout at tackle, but no one has stood out behind them. Upperclassmen Chase Nelson, Victor Thomas and Andre Mathis continually have failed to consistently impress.

That's a far cry from defensive end, which might be UT's deepest, most talented position.

"We've got maybe an incoming player or two that can help us, especially inside," Monte Kiffin said. "We've gotten better, but we still can use some more depth."

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