Spring practices are wrapping up for Tennessee as Butch Jones enters year five on Rocky Top.
This spring has been one of transition within Jones’ program, with new faces throughout the roster who will be playing meaningful roles and new faces throughout the coaching staff.
The format for the annual Orange and White game at Neyland Stadium will be similar to last year with scrimmage plays, circle of life drills and a skills competition with quarterbacks, linemen and defensive backs versus wide receivers. The format will provide certain areas that will be intriguing to watch.
1. Quarterback play
How will junior quarterback Quinten Dormady and red-shirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano handle the spotlight of replacing the graduated Joshua Dobbs? Both will get their chance to perform with a national audience tuning in on the SEC Network and also with an expected 60,000 in attendance – Jones has had no less than 60,000 in attendance at the spring game during his tenure at Tennessee. All eyes will be on the quarterbacks and how they will will be grouped on the field with the first- and second-team units, as well as their development under newly-hired quarterbacks coach Mike Canales.
2. Larry Scott
Scott is receiving his first opportunity to coordinate a Power 5 offense. The well-respected assistant and recruiter replaces Mike DeBord and is Jones’ third offensive coordinator at Tennessee. How much the Volunteers’ offense looks the same or different will be worth observing. Another intriguing tale of the Orange and White game will be how the wide receiver group and tight ends will be used and if the quarterback will be under center more with Scott as the offensive coordinator.
3. Trey Smith
Smith is supposed to be wrapping up prom and counting down to high school graduation. Instead, ESPN’s No. 1 overall player has gone through his first spring practice season at Tennessee and looks every bit as advertised. Smith brings a mature attitude, a competitive edge and a body that meets the eye test to play early in his SEC career. All eyes will be on him to see what offensive line positions he will play.
4. Jonathan Kongbo
The red-shirt junior defensive lineman appears to be more comfortable and mature this spring. Playing inside on the defensive line last year helped the top JUCO prospect to become a better overall player, and now Kongbo looks to settle back in at defensive end. Kongbo could have a match-up against freshman Trey Smith in Saturday’s game.
5. Running backs stepping up
The backfield is thin this spring as the Vols await running backs coming in this fall, leaving John Kelly and Carlin Fils-aime as the duo this spring. Fils-aime gained valuable in-game reps as a freshman in 2016. It is important to see how he fares in the spring game, possibly going against the first-team defense. Kelly enters the 2017 season as the top back after waiting his turn behind Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara. Kelly has proven during his opportunity last season that he can play at an elite level.