One of Tennessee's most promsing defensive players, sophomore end Jacques Smith, is healthy and will be "full-go" for the start of preseason camp, Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said Monday.
The Vols open practice on Tuesday.
The 6-foot-2, 255-pound Smith had surgery on both feet during the offseason, so there was some concern over when he might be ready. Having him there for the start of camp is good news for the Vols, who have no choice but to play a ton of new faces and younger players on defense this season. Smith was named to the SEC's All-Freshman team by the coaches last season after recording five tackles for loss.
While Smith will be back, Dooley said it would still be a few more months before senior linebacker Herman Lathers would be back on the field. Lathers was the Vols' only returning starting linebacker, but broke his ankle during summer workouts in June.
With Lathers out, senior linebacker Austin Johnson was expected to play an even bigger role. Johnson was arrested late last month and charged with public intoxication and disorderly conduct. Dooley said Monday that he was disappointed in Johnson, but added that Johnson's punishment would be handled internally. Dooley said Johnson had been having one of the best summers of anybody on the team until his arrest.
The Vols' lack of depth at linebacker guarantees that a few true freshmen will be in the rotation this season. Curt Maggitt, A.J. Johnson and Christian Harris were all highly rated and will get a chance to play right away.