A day before UT’s final preseason scrimmage, head coach Lane Kiffin released a preliminary depth chart for the season opener against Western Kentucky on Saturday.
After an offseason position battle, Kiffin named Jonathan Crompton UT’s starting quarterback over Nick Stephens after the two split time with the first-team offense during fall camp. Despite giving the edge to Crompton, Kiffin admitted the decision was close.
“I think we’ve got two really good quarterbacks,” Kiffin said.
Senior Montario Hardesty is listed as a co-starter with freshman Bryce Brown at running back with David Oku and Tauren Poole rounding out the backfield. Kevin Cooper is listed as the starter at fullback and he will be backed up by Austin Johnson.
Injuries to the receiving corps helped freshman Nu’Keese Richardson step into a starting role alongside Quintin Hancock. Converted tight end Brandon Warren and freshman Marsalis Teague are listed as backups. Junior Luke Stocker will start at tight end with senior Jeff Cottam entering in two tight-end sets.
The offensive line is led by guards Vladimir Richard and Jacques McClendon, with Cody Pope and William Brimfield holding the backup positions. Chris Scott will anchor the line at left tackle while Jarred Shaw and Aaron Douglas are listed as co-starters at right tackle.
The defensive line will be led by Chris Walker from his right-end position with Gerald Williams starting at left end. Dan Williams and Wes Brown will both start at defensive tackle. All-SEC linebacker Rico McCoy will head the linebacker unit from his weak-side position with Nick Reveiz at middle linebacker and LaMarcus Thompson at strong-side linebacker. After practice Monday, McCoy commented on the team’s mindset leading up to kickoff.
“You’re reaching the time where you can see where you are,” McCoy said. “We’ve been working real hard, and it’s time to see that hard work pay off or if you have a lot more to do.”
The UT secondary will feature Heisman trophy candidate Eric Berry at strong safety and Dennis Rogan and Janzen Jackson as co-starters at free safety. Art Evans will start at right cornerback, and Anthony Anderson and Mike Edwards are listed as co-starters at left cornerback. Jackson will replace linebacker Thompson in the team’s nickel package and backup right end Willie Bohannon will replace Brown at defensive tackle on the passing downs.
On special teams, Daniel Lincoln will handle extra points and field goals while Chad Cunningham will punt and kickoff. Rogan and Oku will both return kickoffs, and Richardson is expected to return punts.
With a depth chart dotted with freshmen, Kiffin reiterated his confidence in the young players.
“We signed a number of players that would have significant roles for us,” Kiffin said after Saturday’s scrimmage. “Its good for the competition, and it shows that these guys have worked really hard.”