Vols continue search for depth
By Grant Ramey | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
KNOXVILLE — Add Greg King’s name to the list of defensive transfers making the move to offense in a search for depth.
King worked with the tight ends Sunday afternoon when Tennessee got back to practice on Haslam Field.
The depth chart was already critically thin at the position. That was before Brendan Downs, who was second on the depth chart behind Mychal Rivera, went down in Friday’s scrimmage at Neyland Stadium with a dislocated patella (knee).
King, the 6-foot-2, 239-pound former linebacker, hasn’t been a factor on defense in an injury-plagued career.
“We’re depleted at tight end and he’s got that tight end body type,” Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said after Sunday’s workout. “He’s not in the two-deep over there (on defense) but he’s got some good qualities about him. He’s got a good attitude so we are going to see how he does.”
Rivera (knee) and Justin Meredith (hamstring) should be ready to go when Tennessee starts the season Aug. 31 against North Carolina State, but both have been slowed by injuries in camp. Freshman athlete Justin King, who was recruited as a linebacker, and fullback Ben Bartholomew have also worked with tight ends out of necessity.
“Greg is a great player,” Bartholomew said. “I think he’s got a lot of potential at the position. He’s a guy with heavy hands and he likes to hit. So it works well with our tight ends and fullbacks.”
King played offense in high school, but said Sunday he was a linebacker first and a tight end second during his prep career at Melrose High School in Memphis.
“I was a linebacker that played on offense,” King said. “They actually threw the ball to me a couple times, like little pop passes, quick like if we were on the goal line or something.”
Time — and continued work on the practice field — will tell if King can contribute at his new position.
“We’ve just got to get in and evaluate him a couple of days to see if he’s got the skill sets to do it, to help us,” Dooley said. “Then obviously you’ve got to keep it real simple to get him to function.”
Dooley compared the move to an NFL team bringing in a tight end to provide depth the week of a game.
“I’ve been in this position in the NFL,” said Dooley, who was part of Nick Saban’s Miami Dolphins coaching staff in 2005 and 2006. “They bring in a tight end in and you’ve got to get him game ready in five days. So, there’s ways you can get a guy to function out there. It’s still a long haul to help you win.”
Regardless of the end result, it’s an opportunity for King to contribute.
“I’m hoping I can,” King said. “I hope I can be that big factor. I think our team needs it. I just want to give them my all.”
Camp lulls: After Friday’s scrimmage and Saturday’s Media Day, Tennessee shook off the grind of a month-long fall camp Sunday, getting back to work on the practice field with some energy.
“We had a real good practice today, high energy,” Dooley said.
“This is the hardest part of camp. We’ve finished two scrimmages. They’re sick of it, the coaches are sick of it. But we have a couple more days of work that we have to get something out of.”
Bartolomew said this week is all about finishing camp the right way before starting game preparations for N.C. State.
“We see this as kind of the fourth quarter of camp, and we’re finishing off strong,” Bartholomew said. “It’s one of our focus points — finishing the games.”
Injury notes: Linebacker Herman Lathers (quad), wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (shoulder) and Rivera were all in red non-contact jerseys during Sunday’s practice.
“He was moving,” Dooley said of Lathers. “He was limited but he went through everything. So that was good.”
Alton “Pig” Howard (foot) was in pads for the first time this camp, working on the side with a trainer. Christian Harris (knee), who’s coming off offseason ACL surgery, also went through drills on the side with a trainer.