KNOXVILLE — The running back position was one of Tennessee's biggest question marks over the offseason. But junior Rajion Neal pulled away in that competition with two impressive scrimmages this camp, and on Thursday the Vols officially designated him the starter for the season opener Aug. 31 against NC State.
“His level of consistency more than anything,” Dooley said when asked why he won the job. “ I couldn’t identify his good practices or his bad practices. He’s been real consistent and comfortable in that role. He’s produced every day. He’s progressed in all his areas. I feel good about him.”
DEPTH CHART: The Vols’ official depth chart for the season opener against NC State on Aug. 31:
QB 1. Tyler Bray 2. Justin Worley
RB 1. Rajion Neal 2. Devrin Young
FB 1. Ben Bartholomew 2. Justin King
TE 1. Mychal Rivera 2. Ben Bartholomew
LT 1. Antonio Richardson 2. Alan Posey
LG 1. Dallas Thomas 2. Marcus Jackson
C 1. James Stone 2. Mack Crowder
RG 1. Zach Fulton 2. Alex Bullard
RT 1. Ja’Wuan James 2. Kyler Kerbyson
WR 1. Justin Hunter 2. Cody Blanc
WR 1. Cordarrelle Patterson 2. Zach Rogers
Jack LB: 1. Jacques Smith 2. Willie Bohannon
DE: 1. Darrington Sentimore 2. Corey Miller
NT: 1. Daniel McCullers 2. Daniel Hood
DE: 1. Maurice Couch 2. Marlon Walls
SLB: 1. Curt Maggitt 2. LaTroy Lewis
MLB: 1. A.J. Johnson 2. Channing Fugate
WLB: 1. Herman Lathers 2. Dontavis Sapp
LCB: 1. Justin Coleman or Marsalis Teague
FS: 1. Brian Randolph 2. Rod Wilks
SS: 1. Byron Moore or Brent Brewer
RCB: 1. Prentiss Waggner 2. Eric Gordon
P: 1. Matt Darr or Michael Palardy
K: 1. Michael Palardy
KOS: 1. Michael Palardy
DS: 1. J.R. Carr 2. Matt Giampapa
H: 1. Matt Darr or Justin Worley
PR: 1. Devrin Young 2. Justin Hunter
RK: 1. Devrin Young and Cordarrelle Patterson
Injury update: Linebacker Herman Lathers and Patterson (shoulder) were still in non-contact jerseys on Thursday. Lathers, who is dealing with various minor injuries, said it would take “a miracle” for him to not play against NC State. Patterson is expected to play as well.
Tight end Mychal Rivera was out of his non-contact jersey for the first time since spraining his knee the first week of fall camp.
“I’ve been able to do everything for the past four or five practice,” Rivera said. “Everything is well.”
Dooley said that freshman wide receiver Alton ‘Pig’ Howard (foot) is likely about two weeks out from a return. Freshman wide receiver Jason Croom (hamstring) is day-to-day.
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