Tennessee spring preview: Everyone will focus on QB battle, but Vols have other holes, too

Butch Jones
Randy Sartin/USA TODAY Sports

Defensive newcomer to watch

DE Deandre Johnson: Tennessee’s leading returning sack man? It’s Vickers, who had 2.5 last season. That means the Vols will be looking for an edge rusher. Johnson, a true freshman who enrolled early, certainly will get an opportunity this spring to show he can make an impact right away as a pass rusher. Johnson, who was listed as a 235-pounder when he signed, certainly must add weight and bulk. But if he shows this spring that he can be a pass-rush threat, he could end up earning time this fall.

RELATED: Without DE Derek Barnett, where does Tennessee turn for pass rush?

Offensive veteran on the spot

QB Quinten Dormady: If Dormady doesn’t win the starting quarterback position this season, it likely never will happen for him at UT. Again, it seems extremely doubtful the quartweback battle is decided this spring, but that doesn’t lessen the importance for Dormady. He needs to show his experience gives him an advantage (the offensive scheme is not going to change much, even with the coordinator change) and that Guarantano’s perceived athleticism advantage is overblown.

Defensive veteran on the spot

CBs Justin Martin and Emmanuel Moseley: The cornerbacks spot are open, and these seniors have played a lot in their careers. How much will that play in their favors? There are a number of younger players also vying for the jobs, and if Martin and/or Moseley have designs on starting, they need strong springs.

Notable players who will miss spring practice

Phillips, Tuttle and defensive back Rashaan Golden are expected to miss extensive time, if not be held out all together. Vickers, Berry and McKenzie also are expected to be limited.

RELATED: It’s not just football: New Tennessee AD John Currie has work to do on all sports

Also of note

Spring game: April 22.
Season-opening game: vs. Georgia Tech in Atlanta on September 4.

(You can follow Dave Hooker on Twitter @TheDaveHooker)

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