Butch Jones locked it down over the weekend as the Vols held their first full scrimmage of fall camp. The Vols didn't even release stats from the evening, meaning we're all left to pull whatever we'd like from post-scrimmage quotes from the head coach and a handful of players.
But as this is already the time of year when we all take quotes and message board rumors and buy-in to a handful of unproven Vols before the season starts, we proudly present the 2014 Fall Camp Power Rankings:
1. Derek Barnett
Best individual tweet of fall camp:
#Vols Fr DE Derek Barnett chased Devrin Young 30 yards downfield to tackle him. Young runs a sub-4.4 40. Barnett is 6-3, 267.— Wes Rucker (@wesrucker247) August 7, 2014
And just to prove it wasn't a freak situation:
One name in camp that's been mentioned as much as anyone: Derek Barnett. Butch: "(He's) had a tremendous camp (with) his effort."— @GrantRamey (@GrantRamey) August 7, 2014
More praise for DL Derek Barnett from Butch after scrimmage. #b#Vols— Mike Strange (@Strangemike44) August 10, 2014
At or near the top of Tennessee's need list is defensive linemen. So to see Barnett apparently separate himself from an already-crowded field of newcomers at defensive end is both exciting and crucial. The Vols need answers on the line desperately, and it sounds like Barnett will have a chance to be one of those guys from day one.
2. Josh Smith
If NCAA Football 2015 was a real thing, your depth chart at wide receiver would go Marquez North, Josh Malone, Von Pearson, Pig Howard, then perhaps Jason Croom and/or Vic Wharton. But not so fast, because in real life a healthy Josh Smith looks to take advantage in his sophomore season:
. @UTCoachZA says @JoshSmith_25 is arguably the toughest guy n his meeting room & praises his competitive character.— John Brice (@John_BriceVQ) August 8, 2014
Zach Azzanni on Josh Smith: "He hasn’t even reached even half of his ceiling. That’s pretty scary. He can get really good."— @GrantRamey (@GrantRamey) August 8, 2014
We all saw Josh Malone's potential in the Orange & White Game, and he may still end up being in the starting lineup when the Vols face Utah State. But perhaps we missed Josh Smith's potential last year: 10 catches for 164 yards and a touchdown in the Vols' first six games before a hamstring injury slowed him to two catches (and a couple of key drops) the rest of the season. If form holds a Butch Jones offense is going to play a zillion wide receivers. But perhaps a more experienced, more confident sophomore will hold off some of these new challengers as the season begins.
Honorable Mention: Nathan Peterman?
You and me and everyone already wrote this guy off. If we didn't do it after the worst half of football a Tennessee quarterback may have ever played last fall, we did it in the spring. You can't carry four quarterbacks, one of them will transfer, and it'll be Peterman who has no chance to win this job. Wait, Ferguson transferred?! Well, I hope Peterman stays on for emergency depth (which we needed last year).
Now a week and a scrimmage into fall camp - a camp where all three quarterbacks have drawn more public ire from the head coach than anyone else - it was Peterman who was praised most loudly in Saturday's scrimmage (apparently working with the two's), and it was only Peterman and Worley who drew praise from Butch Jones:
JONES: Nathan Peterman took some important steps forward. Justin Worley continues to get better.— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) August 10, 2014
I don't think Nathan Peterman is going to start against Utah State. But if things do go south for Justin Worley? It may very well be Peterman who once more is the next man up and not sophomore Josh Dobbs. If Peterman does see the field, any kind of bounce back would be a nice story after his horrendous experience in Gainesville. It'll be interesting to see how much longer Butch goes without naming a starter, or if Peterman's name continues to pop up in this conversation moving forward.