KNOXVILLE — Riyahd Jones sat and watched Tennessee's football practice Monday morning with a pair of crutches a few feet away.
About 50 yards away across the damp Haslam Field grass, Vincent Dallas had switched his white No. 6 for an orange one.
With one cornerback down, the Volunteers turned to the junior receiver to help at a position that already was perilously thin and reliant on two true freshmen.
Such a switch is not new for Dallas. He played defense during spring practice and nearly all of training camp last year before a couple of injuries and the dismissal of Da'Rick Rogers prompted a move back to receiver.
"I would think that would aid him in learning and trying to do the things that we want him to do," defensive coordinator John Jancek said after the first of Tennessee's two practices Monday. "I don't know what his recall will be and what he learned when he played the position in the past, but we're excited to have him. We'll see what he can do, really, this afternoon."
The extent of Jones' injury likely would dictate if Dallas' move lasts longer the second time around. He left the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex gingerly walking with the aid of those crutches, and there is some concern his knee injury could be severe. Coach Butch Jones wasn't scheduled to speak after practice, so there was no official update.
The 6-foot, 180-pound junior college transfer took over a starting position in the spring, but during one practice last week he worked with the Vols' third-team defense behind junior Justin Coleman, freshmen Cam Sutton and Malik Foreman and redshirt freshman walk-on Michael Williams, who ran track at Tennessee in the spring and signed a football scholarship at Maryland in 2011.
The 5-11, 187-pound Dallas, who caught nine passes for 149 yards and hauled in a touchdown throw against South Carolina last season, worked with the second-team defense Monday morning.
Asked about the probability of starting a true freshman at corner, Jancek replied, "Pretty good."
"It's tough, but like I said, we have to move forward," he continued. "We have to find a way to get it done. That's our job. Nobody's going to feel sorry for us. It's just a matter of trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together so that you can put the best team and defense that you have on the field, and you're going to have to adjust. That's what we do as coaches.
"That's our job, so we're not going to talk about the lack of depth, we're not going to feel sorry for ourselves, we're not going to let the players feel sorry for themselves and we're going to push on and move forward."
Switch, part two
Freshman Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who had been at safety, worked at linebacker Monday. Though listed at 6-1 and 210 pounds, he looks closer to 220 and passes the eye test for a freshman. He was classified as an athlete and rated a consensus four-star out of Clarksville (Tenn.) Northeast High School.
"We're going to try and look and see what he can do," Jancek said. "We didn't get to see a lot this morning, a more special teams-oriented practice. He did do some scheme work with Coach Thig [linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen] and I, so it's really yet to be determined. We'll see what he does in the afternoon.
"We see physicality. He's a very smart player. He's got good size. I think his natural fit is going to be as a linebacker as we move forward. He's only going to get bigger, and we need some help at that position."
Curt Maggitt has been in a green noncontact jersey at every practice, and the playmaking linebacker is clearly not close to 100 percent as he recovers from a torn ACL suffered last November.
Monday he worked on the side with two trainers, who guided him through drills designed to test his lateral movement and quickness in changing direction from a shuffle to a backpedal.
Thigpen said the Vols plan to increase Maggitt's workload slowly this week, but he has confidence Brent Brewer can fill in at outside linebacker if Maggitt isn't ready for the season.
"In the spring time, [Brewer] was coming from [playing safety], coming up to the front and getting close to the line, so he was a little hesitant on taking on linemen," he said. "But now he's gotten a lot stronger. He's probably the most vicious guy we've got when it comes to getting off blocks. He really strikes the linemen and strains hard on every single play.
"If you ask the guys in the [meeting] room right now who's playing the most consistent, they'd probably say Brent Brewer."
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...
related articles »
KNOXVILLE — When A.J. Johnson elected to return to Tennessee for his senior season instead of enter the NFL draft, ...
KNOXVILLE — First-year Tennessee football coach Butch Jones likes to call the first two games of the season the meetings ...
KNOXVILLE — Tennessee defensive coordinator John Jancek isn't counting on Curt Maggitt to be available for the Volunteers' season opener ...
KNOXVILLE -- An unhappy Butch Jones ditched his patented wireless microphone, but you still could have heard the Tennessee football ...