Nov. 5, 2009
At his press conference on Tuesday, Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin told the media that as many as six positions would be up for grabs during the week's practice. After three full workouts, Kiffin and his staff have yet to declare any winners, and might use Saturday's game vs. Memphis to continue some of the position battles.
"We'll go back in and watch this film," Kiffin said. "As we talked about with whatever it is--the five or six spots we've opened up--we'll figure it out by the time we play. And if it's really close, we'll play both guys."
The marquee position battle is at middle linebacker, where the Vols are breaking in a third starter after two juniors, captain Nick Reveiz and Savion Frazier, were lost for the year with knee injuries. The candidates for that spot are true freshman Nigel Mitchell-Thornton and redshirt freshman Herman Lathers.
"I thought both guys have had a pretty good week," Kiffin said. "But the game is obviously different, a different speed. I would anticipate both guys playing."
Kiffin also opened up the fullback spot after some spotty run blocking vs. the Gamecocks. Junior Kevin Cooper and sophomore Austin Johnson have made that decision a hard one for the coaches this week as well.
"They both have taken a bunch of reps this week. They both have caught the ball extremely well. We really emphasized the run blocking because I thought they were very average in the game, and it cost us some yards. We've challenged them to be more physical, and because their jobs are on the line this week, I think they have been more physical."
Tennessee hosts in-state rival Memphis at 7 p.m. ET Saturday as a part of Tennessee's 86th Homecoming celebration. The game will be televised by ESPNU.