Apr. 21—Past starters in the NCAA transfer portal. Potential starters sidelined with injuries. Snagging players from other positions, including long-snapper.
Nobody has a tougher task among Tennessee’s new football assistants than linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary, especially when it comes to those who play inside. The Volunteers held their 12th spring practice Tuesday, with Jean-Mary expressing satisfaction with the progress his players continue to make.
“I would like to commend those guys, because our numbers are not very high,” Jean-Mary said on a Zoom call. “The guys who are out there are a hard-working crew, and there is a lot of buy-in with that group. They want to come out there and get better every day.
“There are a lot of guys without a lot of experience, but they fight their butt off every day in some adverse situations.”
Tennessee’s top inside linebackers last season, Henry To’o To’o and Quavaris Crouch, entered the NCAA transfer portal between January’s termination of Jeremy Pruitt and the hiring of Josh Heupel. They have yet to announce their plans for the 2021 season.
Jeremy Banks and Roman Harrison have the potential of occupying first-team roles later this year but have not been able to compete, leaving them relegated to installation meetings.
“They’re not able to participate, but they are doing a good job in rehab,” Jean-Mary said. “We’re not going to rush them back.”
Among those working inside this spring are three players who have arrived from elsewhere — former defensive back Kwauze Garland, former outside linebacker Morven Joseph and former long-snapper Will Albright. Joseph was a four-star signee in 2020, with Jean-Mary admitting Tuesday that “he’s not totally comfortable inside, but he’s giving it everything he has.”
Jean-Mary said Albright is the first long-snapper he’s coached at the position, adding, “he was recruited here as a long-snapper, but he’s an athletic long-snapper.”
The veterans at inside linebacker are fifth-year senior Solon Page and fifth-year senior walk-on Nick Humphrey, who has never played a snap for the Vols. Page collected one tackle last season.
“Page has been thrust into a leadership role,” Jean-Mary said. “He’s the most experienced guy in the room.”
The Vols are nearing Saturday afternoon’s Orange & White spring game, and Jean-Mary isn’t going into it expecting his players to be the weak link.
“They’re making the most of it,” Jean-Mary said. “Obviously our numbers are small, but we’ll never use that as an excuse.”
Mincey to ASU
Former Tennessee defensive lineman John Mincey announced Tuesday night via social media that he is transferring to Arkansas State, which is now under the guidance of former Vols coach Butch Jones.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.