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Tennessee spring wrap-up

5/5/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Walker blows up: If you're looking for a strong breakout player of the year candidate in the SEC, junior defensive end Chris Walker ought to be near the top of the list. He had a dominant spring and was referred to as "unblockable" more than once by Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin. Walker has great burst off the edge to get to the passer, but also plays the run well.

New energy: There's a new energy both in and around the Tennessee program right now. The players are talking about it, and the fans are eager to see where Kiffin and the new staff can take this program. The Vols had fallen from the SEC's elite in the past few years. Kiffin's challenge is to get them back there.

Law according to Kiffin: There's always going to be attrition when a new coach takes over, but the Vols are nearing double figures in terms of players who've left the program since Kiffin was hired. Some of the notables are running back Lennon Creer, safety Demetrice Morley and quarterback B.J. Coleman. Kiffin's response has been simple: His version of Tennessee football isn't for everybody.

Fall questions

Quarterback carousel: With Coleman out of the equation, it's down to Jonathan Crompton and Nick Stephens. Kiffin has said that Crompton is in the lead. The fifth-year senior will likely start the season as the Vols' starter. Whether he finishes the season as the starter remains to be seen. History suggests that Stephens will also get a shot at some point.

Clearing the way: Can the Vols block anybody that counts in the SEC? They looked to be further ahead in run blocking in the spring, and touted freshman running back Bryce Brown should help once he arrives. But pass protection remains a huge question mark. There's no depth at tackle, and redshirt freshman Aaron Douglas may end up starting next season even though he was a tight end in high school.

Backing up the talk: Kiffin has talked a mean game and stirred it up with the best of them. This much we know about him: It's not going to be boring. But is he ready to manage an SEC program and do all the things that it takes to win in this league? We're going to find out pretty fast because chances are that a few people will be gunning for him this fall.