Schedule: The Vols opened spring practice on Tuesday afternoon and will hold their Orange & White spring game on April 16.
What’s new: Peter Sirmon, who played in the NFL for the Tennessee Titans, was promoted to linebackers coach, replacing Chuck Smith. Lance Thompson moved over from linebackers coach to defensive line coach.
On the mend: Safety Janzen Jackson is not in school this semester and will not go through spring practice. Defensive end Ben Martin (Achilles), linebacker Herman Lathers (shoulder) and offensive lineman Marques Pair (knee) will miss the spring or be severely limited while recovering from surgeries. Quarterback Nash Nance (foot) will also be limited.
On the move: Sophomore Daniel Hood has moved from offensive tackle to defensive tackle.
Key battle: The Vols lost two senior specialists, so they need to sort out the place-kicking, punting and kickoff duties. Sophomore Michael Palardy will battle for all three, and redshirt freshman Matt Darr will be in the hunt for the punting and kickoff chores.
New faces: Six freshmen enrolled early and are going through spring ball -- defensive back Justin Coleman, offensive lineman Mack Crowder, receiver Vincent Dallas, tight end Brendan Downs, offensive guard Marcus Jackson and quarterback Justin Worley. The Vols signed three junior college defenders they hope will be able to help right away -- defensive tackle Maurice Couch and defensive backs Izauea Lanier and Byron Moore -- but they don't arrive on campus until this summer.
Breaking out: Justin Hunter was the Tennessee freshman receiver everybody was talking about last season with his seven touchdown catches. Don’t be surprised if Da’Rick Rogers steals some of that spotlight next fall. The 6-foot-3, 211-pound sophomore could pass for an NFL receiver physically. He has all the tools to be a great one in this league. If he improves his consistency, look out.
Don’t forget about: One of the most damaging blows for the Vols last season was losing defensive tackle Marlon Walls for the entire season with an Achilles tendon injury. There was no depth to speak of in the middle of that defensive line, and Walls was being counted on to be a starter. He’s back this spring and figures to be a key part of that defensive line in the fall. There are no guarantees with junior Montori Hughes, who was suspended for the first two practices for violating team rules, which makes Walls’ return all the more valuable for the Vols.
All eyes on: Sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray says he’s bigger, stronger and faster. He demonstrated in those last five games a year ago as a true freshman that he has a big-time arm and isn’t afraid to put the ball in tight spots. The next step is proving that he can effectively lead this football team.