With the UT quarterback carousel settled on true freshman Joshua Dobbs for the time being, the Vols could play more five wide receiver sets like the one they opened the game with and used intermittently in Saturday's loss to Missouri.
Butch Jones said Monday that playing so many wide receivers is partly an attempt to get the most talented 11 players on the field. But having Dobbs under center is a factor as well.
"I think the next thing is trying to play to the skill set of the quarterback," Jones said. "I think there is a number of things that went into that decision and some of the different formations that you saw, and we will continue to evolve with Josh as our quarterback."
Though Dobbs is expected to start when the Vols host Auburn on Saturday, another quarterback is re-entering the mix this week for UT.
Redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman is practicing this week after injuring his thumb during his first career start against Florida on Sept. 21. Competition is ongoing between Peterman and true freshman Riley Ferguson for the backup job.
Ferguson is the lone scholarship quarterback yet to see action for the Vols in 2013, and if UT can finish the season without playing him, he could count 2013 as a redshirt season, keeping four years of eligibility.
"It's hard for Riley. He's a competitive young man, and he wants to be out there," Jones said. "Just like we speak about every week, it's whatever individual has had the best week of practice."
Running back blues
Marlin Lane led UT running backs in yards against Missouri in his third game back from an injury suffered in UT's game against South Alabama on Sept. 28.
Fellow back Rajion Neal ran the ball eight times to Lane's six but did not register a rushing attempt in the second half.
In UT's prior two contests against South Carolina and Alabama, Neal racked up twice the number of carries as Lane. Saturday's contest was the most even distribution of carries for the duo since UT's loss at Oregon on Sept. 14.
"You'll see his role continue to increase," Jones said of Lane. "Now he's back to 100 percent health-wise. The thing we need from him is burst at the second level and really finishing runs."
Smith has "best hands on team"
Freshman wide receiver Josh Smith dropped a possible touchdown pass in the second quarter Saturday and without mentioning his name, Jones cited the play as a momentum swinger.
But when asked to address Smith specifically, Jones offered high praise.
"Josh, I'll tell you right now, has the best hands on our football team," Jones said. "He's extremely competitive. He brings it every day in practice. He's extremely difficult and hard on himself, which we want; that's a mark of a great competitor.
The Christian Academy of Knoxville product is fifth on the team in catches with 12 for 182 yards. He remained listed as a co-starter on the depth chart released Monday.
"It just so happened that his mistake was magnified because he was in the open field and it was a touchdown," Jones said. "I believe in Josh Smith. He's going to be fine."