What to watch for during Tennessee’s spring game


Orange and White Spring Game

When: Saturday, April 20th
Where: Knoxville, TN
Time: 2:00 PM ET

Here’s what we’ll be watching Saturday:

A new system: Butch Jones is known for his ‘spread offense’ at Cincinnati, and I’m sure we’ll see some variation of it tomorrow. The wide receiver numbers simply aren’t there to run a true spread, but I’m interested to see the different formations and plays offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian calls. Likewise, defensive coordinator John Jancek brings back the much-welcomed 4-3 alignment, completely erasing Sal Sunseri’s 3-4 disaster.

A QB battle: Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman are on equal ground entering tomorrow’s spring game. Worley had the slight lead to start, but neither quarterback has progressed to become the ‘alpha-male’ Butch Jones is looking for. Maybe one takes a slight lead tomorrow, but this battle will progress well into fall camp.

Running back questions: With Marlin Lane suspended from the team, returner Rajion Neal is the veteran of the group. Freshman Alden Hill has been performing very well in practice, but he isn’t Lane. However, Butch Jones left the door open for Lane to return to the team, but there is certain “criteria” he must meet before being reinstated. So, Neal and Hill will be the primary backs tomorrow.

A position of utmost concern: What’s more concerning than the quarterback battle or any aspect on defense? Tennessee is ultra thin at wide receiver. Jacob Carter, Jason Croom and Paul Harris are all on the injured list, and none will participate in tomorrow’s game. WR coach Zach Azzanni has his work cut out for him and has been brutally honest about his position corps. “We’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said. “More than I thought we would (at this point).” Azzanni has not only been disappointed at the depth issues, but he’s looking for leadership from anyone at the position. Incoming true freshmen Ryan Jenkins and Marquez North have to be ready to play. Unfortunately, neither is already enrolled for the spring game.

Spring stars: Butch Jones has continually singled out a handful of guys who made a strong impact on him this spring, namely running backs Alden Hill and Rajion Neal, offensive linemen James Stone, Zach Fulton and Ja’Wuan James, linebacker Dontavis Sapp and defensive back Justin Coleman. Jones has been impressed by both quarterbacks, Peterman and Worley, too. The most talked about player, though, has been Sapp. The rising senior has registered just 42 total tackles in his career. He should have twice that amount in 2013 alone.

Photo Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports



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