Tennessee coach Derek Dooley isn't ready to say his Vols have arrived, but he does like what he sees in the way of depth.
In short, the Vols have more of it, which is a necessity if you're going to contend in the SEC.
"I think this is the first time since I've been here that we have some quality depth at a lot of positions, and there should be a lot of good competition," said Dooley, whose Vols opened spring practice on Monday. "I think that's going to help our team."
In his first two seasons, Dooley was relying on freshmen and sophomores to step in and play lead roles. It's a big reason the Vols suffered through losing seasons each of the last two years. But approaching Year 3, Dooley feels like the roster is much more stable.
"We finally have guys who are settled in and have a lot of guys who have played a lot of snaps, so there is a lot more maturity," Dooley said. "There's a lot more experience, and I think the ability in the roster has led to a better work environment and better dynamic day-to-day."
The Vols don't have a depth chart entering the spring. Rather, they have an organizational chart.
The reason being: Dooley plans to move a lot of guys around and look at different combinations, especially with Tennessee shifting from a 4-3 to a base 3-4 defense.
"We're going to be moving guys around a lot trying to find the right mix in all the areas, whether it's the offensive line or on defense," Dooley said. "We're going to have a pre-spring organizational chart, and then we'll give you a post-spring depth chart. [There's] really nothing in between, because it's going to be a lot of experimenting."
Already, the Vols have moved Curt Maggitt from outside linebacker in the 4-3 to one of the inside linebackers in the 3-4, although he'll still line up as a pass-rusher on third down. Jacques Smith and Willie Bohannon, both of whom played defensive end last season, will line up at "Jack" linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. Also, senior Prentiss Waggner is moving from safety to cornerback, which is his more natural position. And to further solidify the depth at linebacker, Channing Fugate is moving there from fullback, while Brent Brewer will move from safety to strong side linebacker.