*signifies a returning starter
Starter: Justin Worley, Jr., 6-4, 222
Backup: Riley Ferguson, Fr., 6-3, 181
Starter: *Rajion Neal, Sr., 5-11, 212
Backup:*Marlin Lane, Jr., 5-11, 205
Starter: Marquez North, Fr., 6-4, 215
Backup: Jason Croom, R-Fr., 6-5, 223
Starter: Josh Smith, Fr., 6-1, 193
Backup: Ryan Jenkins, Fr., 5-11, 180
Starter: Pig Howard, So., 5-8, 185
Backup: Devrin Young, Jr., 5-8, 171
Starter: Brendan Downs, Jr., 6-5, 248
Backup: Woody Quinn, Jr., 6-6, 253
Starter: *Antonio Richardson, Jr., 6-6, 327
Backup: Marques Pair, R-Jr., 6-5, 329
Starter: Alex Bullard, R-Sr., 6-2, 302
Backup: Marcus Jackson, Jr., 6-2, 307
Starter: *James Stone, Sr., 6-3, 291
Backup: Mack Crowder, R-So., 6-2, 280
Starter: *Zach Fulton, Sr., 6-5, 323
Backup: Dylan Wiesman, Fr., 6-3, 308
Starter: *Ja’Wuan James, Sr., 6-6, 318
Backup: Kyler Kerbyson, R-So., 6-4, 306
Tyler Bray was a polarizing quarterback for Tennessee’s fan base, but he passed for 3,612 yards and 34 touchdowns last season.
Justin Worley has the only experience among the four quarterbacks on the roster and has taken the large majority of the first-team reps this month. Nathan Peterman is perhaps the best runner of the group, but he’s struggled in some situational work during preseason practice. Tennessee’s coaches are excited about what freshmen Riley Ferguson, who’s shown good arm strength, and Josh Dobbs, who’s also had some impressive moments, have done in training camp.
“That’s what we want out of our quarterback: consistency day in and day out,” coach Butch Jones said. “I just want teams that come to work every day, and Justin has been that. We’ve challenged him, and you know what you’re getting every single day.”
In Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane, Tennessee has two players who have played and produced in the SEC. Neal is an effective rusher in the Vols' downhill zone-running game and one of the stronger players of the team. Lane, back from a spring suspension, is a nice complement who is an effective receiver out of the backfield and had some solid performances last season.
"Both of those guys are really competing right now," running backs coach Robert Gillespie said. "We have a really good atmosphere in the running backs room right now. Guys compete on the field, but they're really helping each other off the field."
Tennessee had to use four tailbacks against Mississippi State, and Alden Hill and Tom Smith, a pair of inexperienced downhill runners, are next in line behind the top tandem.
Injuries and wild inconsistency left receivers coach Zach Azzanni visibly disappointed at the end of spring practice, but he's been more upbeat this month.
Tennessee is extremely young and experienced at receiver, and finding consistently reliable playmakers has been one of the Vols' biggest offseason questions. Freshman Marquez North, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound Charlotte product who was the highest-ranked recruit in the 2013 class, has been impressive, and freshmen Josh Smith and Ryan Jenkins also have done well. Pig Howard has had a solid camp, but the Vols need Devrin Young, Jason Croom, Cody Blanc and Jacob Carter to develop into consistent options for the quarterbacks.
"This season may age me about 10 years," Azzanni said. "There'll be some peaks and valley for sure. There'll be a lot of growing pains, but they're willing, and it'll be fun coaching these young guys."
The offseason storyline for Tennessee's offensive line have been lighter linemen and a handful of preseason accolades for a unit that will be the Vols' undisputed strength this season. Players have had to drop a few pounds to improve their conditioning for a fast-tempo offense and become more mobile in an offense that likes to utilize screen passes. Four players made preseason All-SEC teams.
Coaches have been encouraged by the development of some depth this month, and the unit knows they'll have to lead an offense that's replacing a big chunk of production at quarterback and receiver.
"It doesn't matter how many yards, sacks, this, that and the other," line coach Don Mahoney said. "At the end of the day, let's go and win ball games, period. That point, from their maturity level and their understanding, they get it, and they understand, 'You know what? That's right.'"
TENNESSEE’S OFFENSIVE AVERAGES in 2012: 36.2 points per game 475.9 Yards Per Game
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 ...