Every week, we'll take a look at five things trending up and down from the perspective of the Tennessee Volunteers. This can really be anything to do with the program but will more often than not be directly tied to the previous game(s).
Since there haven't been any of those played yet, here is the Game Week Edition of the Trending Report. We'll take a glimpse at the good and the bad heading into Saturday's season-opener against Montana.
- The Young Must Be Restless. The Vols appear to be starting at least three true freshmen against Montana for sure [Curt Maggitt, A.J. Johnson and Justin Coleman]. Many others will play. To go even deeper into this youth movement in Knoxville, basically everybody else in the starting lineup is a sophomore. That's an exaggeration, but by my count, UT will start 11 other sophomores, including Brent Brewer, Daniel Hood, Jacques Smith, Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter, Da'Rick Rogers, Channing Fugate, Ja'Wuan James, Zach Fulton, James Stone and Alex Bullard. Forget waiting to start ... these guys are taking over. That bodes well for the future.
- The Buzz Surrounding Tennessee's Top Two Receivers. The defensive coaches have alluded to it, and so have the players. Having to guard Rogers and Hunter every day in practice is going to make them better because few teams will be able to match the athleticism of the pair. Will they produce in a big way on the field? That will probably go a long way in determining how good UT can be, but these are a couple of guys fans will love watching the next couple of years from an electricity standpoint.
- Sirmon on a Mountain. When we learned of Chuck Smith being let go on Super Bowl Sunday of this year, I think a lot of us were unsure what to think about Sirmon's immediate promotion. Sure, he's close with defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, but could he recruit? How about coach? Well, the first part of that question has been answered. Sirmon has probably been UT's recruiter of the year this season, pulling four or five quality prospects -- notably MLB Dalton Santos. Now, we'll get to see the coaching part. Early returns are good. Maggitt and Johnson have really grasped Wilcox's scheme, and we haven't heard anything at all this fall that would indicate that linebacker -- a position we were concerned about -- has been anything but a strength. I think most UT fans are now worried/wondering how long the Wilcox/Sirmon tandem will stick around.
- Secondary Depth a Primary Reason to Hope. Few teams can lose a player like Janzen Jackson and not miss a beat, and UT is certainly no exception to that. But the Vols at least have a luxury of talented players back there who can work as a committee to try and make up for the talented safety's considerable void. Prentiss Waggner will shift back to free safety, and while that takes away PSwagg as UT's top corner, it gives Coleman an opportunity to shine as a freshman. If those guys can't cut it, players like Brian Randolph, Byron Moore and Izaeua Lanier have the talent to fill in.
- One Martin Startin'... I said this on last night's podcast, but if you are looking for a specific Vol to shed adoration on this year, how about senior defensive end Ben Martin? This guy went from being a player who Dooley had no idea about because he hasn't been healthy since the second-year coach got here to a starter for the Montana game. He has transformed his body from a 210-pound end to a 270-pound jumbo end that Dooley loves, and it apparently hasn't come at the expense of any of his considerable talent. Also, when many doubted if he'd ever contribute, Martin rebounded from two torn Achilles tendon to battle all the way back.
One Martin Departin'. In what would qualify as one of the biggest shocks of the preseason, freshman former four-star safety Pat Martin is transferring, Derek Dooley announced this morning. Dooley was pretty cryptic on the reasoning, though it appeared Martin was either homesick or unhappy about being mired on the depth chart or both. Oh well. Not every kid is going to pan out, and hopefully, Martin will find somewhere to be happy. Frees up another scholarship ...
- Tyler Bray's Completion Percentage In [Gasp!] Scrimmages!! I say this with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek, but there has been some mild concern -- especially after Bray's 5-for-30 Orange & White Game egg -- that the quarterback is having a difficult time throwing a ball in the ocean. The coaches have loaded down the sophomore with more of the playbook, and there is going to be a learning curve, almost without question. I wouldn't go looking for him to look like Joe Montana against Montana.
- Speaking of Joe Montana ... It hasn't been the best couple of weeks for Joe's son Nate, who transferred from Notre Dame and has been vying to start at quarterback for the Grizz against Tennessee on Saturday. First, he was arrested under suspicion of DUI, but that was reduced to reckless driving. Now, according to this report -- by the awesomely-named Fritz Neighbor of the Missoulian -- coach Robin Pflugrad has settled on sophomore Jordan Johnson and junior dual-threat Gerald Kemp. By the way, if you're like me and love stats, check Johnson's numbers last year. He completed 15-of-20 passes for 44 yards. You have to work hard to average fewer than 3 yards per pass completion.
- Attendance in Tennessee's Training Room. Hey, we're grasping for straws here. It's Game 1 week and everybody's optimistic. One thing we're all pleased with is the fact that there haven't been many injuries this preseason, unlike in years' past. Malik Jackson was banged up for a while, and Zach Rogers isn't completely healthy. Devrin Young broke his collarbone and has missed all of camp. Herman Lathers was injured in the offseason, and we really need him to get back soon. But besides Lathers, we should be pretty much in-tact. That's big news.
- We've Still Got To Wait Five More Freakin Days For Football Time In Tennessee! GET HERE ALREADY!