By Josh Ward | @Josh_Ward
Tennessee’s football team will finish the spring with the Orange and White Game at Neyland Stadium on Saturday.
It will be the first chance for almost everyone to see the Vols play 11-on-11 football since coach Jeremy Pruitt was hired in December.
While there will still be a lot to learn about Tennessee leading up to the Vols’ season opener against West Virginia in September, Saturday’s spring game should tell us something about the status of the team.
There will be a lot of players to watch as they try to impress the new coaching staff and battle for starting positions or increased playing time.
Here are five notable Tennessee players to watch this weekend:
1. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano
This one is pretty obvious. Guarantano will likely end the spring as Tennessee’s No. 1 quarterback ahead of Will McBride, but the battle to be the Vols’ starter is far from over. Stanford transfer Keller Chryst will arrive this summer hoping to win the starting job. Let’s see how Guarantano looks (he’s bigger than he was in the fall) but more importantly how he handles decision making and if he can make plays down the field. He should have plenty of opportunities on Saturday.
2. Running back Ty Chandler
Tennessee needs playmakers to emerge, and the second-year running back might have the best chance to be that guy for the Vols. Chandler showed some of that ability as a true freshman when he returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Indiana State and then put up 153 yards from scrimmage against Kentucky. How many times can Chandler carry the ball each game? That’s still unknown, but Chandler should be Tennessee’s top choice to replace the departed John Kelly.
3. Outside linebacker Darrell Taylor
Taylor, who played defensive end in Tennessee’s former scheme, will have a chance to be a playmaker in the backfield in Pruitt’s new defense. The Vols need Taylor to be that guy. He has plenty of talent and athleticism and should fit in well to what Tennessee wants to do on defense. Taylor’s career has been more well known for what he’s done off the field, but he still has plenty of time to make a difference on it. He’s reportedly had a good spring, which he can cap off nicely on Saturday.
4. Safety Nigel Warrior
Warrior is a player who was coveted by Pruitt when he was coaching defense at both Georgia and Alabama. Now that he’s entering his third year at Tennessee, Warrior needs to emerge as a leader in the Vols’ secondary. He’s probably the most talented defensive back at Tennessee, and he can make plays against both the pass and run. Watch for Warrior on Saturday – the Vols’ defensive coaches would love for him to make a game-changing play.
5. Cornerback* Alontae Taylor
The asterisk is a reminder that Taylor’s position is to be determined. Taylor, who enrolled at Tennessee in January, began the spring at receiver but switched to cornerback less than two weeks ago. He could play on either side of the ball, and Pruitt has yet to make a final determination on which position Taylor will ultimately play. He remained on defense at practice this week, so he will most likely be at cornerback on Saturday. Could he play both cornerback and receiver? Either way, No. 6 will be a player to watch at Tennessee.