How losing Pig Howard would impact Vols

Tennessee will enter spring practice on Friday without one of its top offensive weapons, as wide receiver Alton “Pig” Howard is taking a leave of absence from the team.

Coach Butch Jones said that while Howard won’t be with the team, he is still enrolled in school. Jones added that Howard is "dealing with some personal circumstances."

The question is whether Howard will return to the team any time soon, if ever. We all know there are no guarantees when something like this happens, and the Vols can’t afford to lose Howard.

Howard was one of the more unheralded offensive players in the SEC last season. He led Tennessee with 44 receptions and three touchdown catches and was also second on the team with 388 receiving yards. Nothing mind blowing, but on a team that lacked any sort of offensive consistency, Howard was very valuable.

If Howard can’t return, more will be put on rising sophomore Marquez North, who led the team with 496 receiving yards last year, and true freshman Josh Malone, who enrolled early this spring. North could be a special player for the Vols. He really came on late last season and will be going through his first spring practice this year. That’s more reps and more time.

As for Malone, getting him on campus early is big for Tennessee, even before Howard’s situation. He’ll get an early jump on the playbook but has to realize he’s going to have even more pressure put on him to get things done early. He was an ESPN 300 prospect for a reason, and the Vols might have to see it right away.