Tennessee paused preseason practice on Friday after “a few” more positive COVID-19 tests within the team before resuming practice on Saturday.
Here are five things we learned from Tennessee’s second week of practice.
Quavaris Crouch leads competition for linebacker spot
Sophomore Quavaris Crouch leads the competition for the inside linebacker spot alongside returning starter Henry To’o To’o in what is perhaps Tennessee’s most important preseason position battle.
Jeremy Banks is behind Crouch.
“Those guys are battling tooth and nail for that starting position,” Ansley said.
Crouch played more outside linebacker than inside last season, but by moving permanently to the inside, he can fill an important void created by the departure of Daniel Bituli.
Aaron Beasley, who shifted from safety to linebacker last season, is To’o To’o’s backup.
Don’t forget about Ramel Keyton
Chaney praised the leadership of senior wide receivers Josh Palmer and Brandon Johnson, and he raved about the speed and potential of the freshmen wide receivers.
But he also made sure to highlight Ramel Keyton, who is considered a breakout candidate among Tennessee’s sophomores.
“Ramel is a strong kid,” Chaney said. “He looks a little wiry, but very strong and a strong-handed kid. He had a really good practice (Wednesday). I’m real pleased with him. He can be as good as he determines he wants to be. That’s Ramel. He’s a still young player and learning. But, boy, when he wants to go, he’s a good football player.”
Keyton caught four passes last season. Palmer is Tennessee’s only returning starter at wide receiver.
Trevon Flowers settles in at new spot in secondary
Trevon Flowers has moved from free safety to strong safety, where the Vols must replace Nigel Warrior, a linchpin of last year’s defense.
Flowers started two games at free safety last season before suffering a season-ending leg injury. Jaylen McCollough started the final six games at free safety and is projected to start alongside Flowers.
Freshman Key Lawrence is a strong candidate to join Theo Jackson in claiming the second-string safety spots.
“We expect him to make a push at safety,” Ansley said of Lawrence, Tennessee’s top-rated signee in the 2021 recruiting class.
Lawrence also should contribute on special teams.
Position change for J.J. Peterson
J.J. Peterson, the top-ranked recruit in coach Jeremy Pruitt’s 2018 recruiting class, played last season as a reserve inside linebacker. He remained at that spot in the spring, but the Vols have since shifted him to outside linebacker.
Kivon Bennett and Deandre Johnson remain the top options at outside linebacker, and Roman Harrison is a backup who should factor into the playing rotation.
Princeton Fant in line for bigger opportunity
Tennessee regularly played two tight ends last season. Austin Pope returns as the team’s top blocking tight end, but the Vols need another tight end to emerge to replace the production of Dominick Wood-Anderson.
Princeton Fant has played various positions throughout his Tennessee career but found a home last year at tight end. He was the first name Chaney rattled off behind Pope as he assessed the tight end group.
“We feel real comfortable where we have (Fant) right now,” Chaney said.
Blake Toppmeyer covers University of Tennessee football. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it. Current subscribers can click here to join Blake’s subscriber-only text group offering updates and analysis on Vols football.