When Jalen Reeves-Maybin looks back on his tenure at Tennessee, he may be able to point a finger at last Saturday's contest against No. 6 Georgia as the turning point for his career.
With 1:25 remaining in the third quarter, the true freshman came crashing up the middle of the Bulldogs protection unit and blocked Collin Barber's punt, which was returned 15 yards for a touchdown by freshman cornerback Devaun Swafford.
While the block may be the only highlight of Reeves-Maybin's season thus far, his impact on the special teams squad has been felt throughout the year.
"He works his butt off and you can see it paying off, especially on special teams," senior linebacker Dontavius Sapp said. "I don't think there's a kickoff this year where he didn't make the tackle. He works in the weight room and at practice. He's always in the film room. You can see it paying off."
Reeves-Maybin's success has not gone unnoticed by the coaches, who gave the special teams standout a tremendous amount of praise during the bye week.
"He's made some plays; he is really coming on," defensive coordinator John Jancek said. "He's done a great job in special teams in the games. He's made a bunch of tackles. He covers a kick or the punt and he is making the play. He is really starting to improve."
With his hard work and obvious ability to find the ball carrier and bring him down, Reeves-Maybin may soon find some playing time away from the special teams unit.
"We are looking for some guys that can provide us with some depth and pull some weight on defense," Jancek said. "He is certainly guy that we are going to consider and get him more in-tune with what we are doing and bring him along as quickly as possible."
The Clarksville, Tenn., native will look to bolster the depth at the linebacker position, where the three starting linebackers have played a majority of the snaps this season, especially Sapp and junior linebacker A.J. Johnson, who rarely come off the field.
"I think he's gradually learning," Sapp said. "He's gradually getting better and better and better every day. I think he'll be a help at this linebacker group."
Two Vols leave program
Junior wide receiver Vincent Dallas and redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Alan Posey have both left the Tennessee football program and plan to transfer, UT spokesman Jimmy Stanton said Friday.
Dallas, who has been the primary kick returner for the Vols since junior wide receiver Devrin Young broke his hand in practice before UT's matchup against Western Kentucky, registered 14 receptions, 200 yards and a touchdown during his Tennessee career.
If Young is not cleared against No. 11 South Carolina, the kick return duties could be in a bit of a lull.
True freshman Malik Forman and Marquez North have both taken reps as kick returners in practice, as have veteran running backs Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane, the latter of which is currently on his way back from a lower extremity injury.
The 6-foot-5, 310-pound Posey has played in three games in his three years with the team and has never started a game.
Both Dallas and Posey were members of the Vols 2011 recruiting class, which was ranked 13th in the nation.