Coming down to the end of UT's spring practice, the Volunteers have grown and developed with a new coaching staff and laid the foundation for learning the new offensive and defensive schemes.
All that's left for head coach Butch Jones and his team until August is to play Saturday's spring game in Neyland Stadium at 2 p.m.
While most Vol fans want to know who will be starting at quarterback, the competition remains open and likely will remain open until after highly touted freshmen Joshua Dobbs and Riley Ferguson join the mix this summer.
"It's open competition," Jones said. "That's why we really haven't paid a lot of attention to the depth chart. Depth chart is really for the first game where you line up. Everything in our program is based off of competition. We're going to play the best players that we feel fit that will give us the best opportunity to win on Saturdays."
With junior running back Marlin Lane not currently practicing with the team, Tennessee is down to senior Rajion Neal as their sole returning running back with significant game experience. Redshirt Freshman Alden Hill has stepped up this spring, culminating in a strong performance in the Vols' April 13 scrimmage. His development might provide the Vols with much-needed depth at the position.
"He's probably made the biggest strides," Tennessee running backs coach Robert Gillespie said. "He was a long way from being a football player. This spring he's definitely had a chance to understand football. I told him 'everything you thought you knew, throw it away. Let's build it from the ground up,' and he's done a good job accepting that. It's our job to tear them down and build them back up and the build-up process has been fun with him."
Due to injuries and inexperience, none of the Volunteer wide receivers have stepped up as a consistent playmaker.
Jason Croom had been making strides in that direction until he went down with a hamstring injury in Tennessee's April 11 practice. Pig Howard has the talent to be a game-changing threat, but he has struggled with consistency throughout spring practice. Saturday's game may offer a chance for the coaching staff and fans alike to see how UTs healthy receivers play in front of an audience. For now, incoming freshmen Marquez North, Josh Smith and Ryan Jenkins will have opportunities to earn significant playing time at the position once they arrive for summer workouts.
"I'm disappointed in some of the progress we've made," wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni said. "We take two steps forward, take a step back. Then the injuries haven't helped. I haven't been able to settle a guy into a position. This guy is down, so I have to move this guy over here. So I've been disappointed, but also expected."
Tennessee has struggled getting to the quarterback over the past two year as evidenced by the Vols' two-year record of highest number of sacks in the SEC. No Vol has distinguished themselves in that department.
"Our four down pass rush has to get better. We don't have a tremendous edge presence right now," defensive coordinator John Jancek said.
Saturday is fast-approaching, and for every player who is in a position to give themselves more playing time for the upcoming season, the Orange and White game could be there biggest opportunity to show the coaches and fans that they are ready to represent Tennessee football as best as they can.