Update on Tailbacks, Key Injuries and Vincent Dallas
A veteran defensive line will be hampered to begin the season.
Head coach Butch Jones said defensive end Corey Vereen [knee] and Jacques Smith [thumb] will be held out of the season opener against Austin Peay after suffering preseason injuries. Jones said Smith should be back by Sept. 7 against Western Kentucky. That’s a bit sooner than previously expected.
Vereen is expected to return to the field sometime in September. Junior defensive back Riyahd Jones’ absence from a calf injury is expected to be lengthy. That leaves three walk-on players on the two-deep depth chart that is also well-stocked with freshmen.
The Vols had some good news on the injury front. Junior linebacker Curt Maggitt (knee) could play this week, Jones said. That, however, seems unlikely as Maggitt will first take part in team periods this week. He’s been limited with the sore knee throughout preseason camp.
Jones spoke glowingly of Marlin Lane although senior Rajion Neal will start on Saturday. Lane seems to have put some off-field-issues behind him.
Marlin really progressed throughout the course of training camp,” Jones said of the junior. “He was slowed for about three days with a slight ankle injury but he is fine now. Rajion was just a model of consistency. I thought he really improved in his pass protection skills which he needed a lot of work on that area and I think he really did a great job of embracing that role.
“Just again, understanding the run reads. Does he still have a lot of work to do? Absolutely. But I just think it was a day-to-day level of consistency.”
Neal and Lane will likely play most of the game. Spring star Alden Hill seems to have slipped behind Tom Smith. Jones said Hill will primarily play special teams.
Former cornerback Vincent Dallas has been moved back to receiver where he started fall camp and has played most of his career.