Aug. 5, 2013
By Alex Cate KNOXVILLE, Tenn.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.-- It's easy to focus on the highlighted players taking the field, many of whom have become multi-year starters and awards candidates. But, what about the others? What about those select few who have walked on the Volunteer team and have impressed coaches enough to start hearing their names in conversations about playing on Saturdays?
Two such players have emerged as potentially pivotal players in the Tennessee game plan. Both players took uncommon paths to their current roles with the Volunteers.
FROM LACROSSE TO FOOTBALL
Offensively, redshirt sophomore Alex Ellis in the midst of a wide open battle at tight end.
"Everybody is going to have their shot and have their opportunity to prove what they can do," said tight ends coach Mark Elder about their depth chart. "I can't speak for every coach but I can talk about my position and one great example of that is Alex Ellis. He is a walk on for us and he took reps with the ones today and he will continue to do that."
Although this is technically Ellis' third year with the Vols, the native of Delmar, Del., will look to see game time for the first time.
In high school, he played lacrosse as well as football. Ellis said that his time as a lacrosse player has helped him be more athletic which is important for tight ends in this new offense.
"Coach Quillen, he was my lacrosse coach in high school and was our defensive coordinator for football too, he told me the next level you just have to be the best and fastest athlete," said Ellis. "A big part of making it is your feet and lacrosse definitely helped me. It made me learn to move in space a little bit."
"I'm not anywhere I need to be right now," he said. "I'm going to keep working, keep working in the weight room - Coach Lawson, Coach Elder - they're going to get us better so we're just going to follow their lead and we'll go from there."
FROM QB TO DB
Flipping sides of the ball, a surprising standout has undoubtedly been Max Arnold another redshirt sophomore.
From McKenzie, Tenn. the defensive back was the recipient of the John Stucky Iron Vol award voted on by his teammates - an award he said that trumps his 62-yard interception for a touchdown in the spring's Orange and White game.
Head coach Butch Jones narrowed it down to one word. Persistence.
Max Arnold is a young man who has a high level of consistency, has shown great persistence, does everything that we ask of him," said Jones.
Recently listed in the pre-camp depth chart as the no. 2 free safety, Arnold said he wasn't taking it too seriously.
"It obviously felt good, seeing the results of my hard work in the off-season," he said. "But nothing is written in stone. I'm just filling in and doing my job."
In high school, Arnold played quarterback but when Arnold realized that there wasn't a future at that position, his decision boiled down to where he'd most like to play any position. He chose Tennessee.
"Well first of all, I wouldn't come up here if I didn't think I could do it. If I didn't think I could, I would've gone to a smaller school," he said about whether he felt like he belonged at Tennessee.
After he started being pegged as the guy that imitated opponents' speedy players, he felt a sense of belonging which jump-started his confidence.
"I felt like I was needed," said Arnold. "As a walk-on, that's really what you want to feel. You want to feel needed or wanted on the team. Once you get that feeling and you feel appreciated, it just makes you hungrier."