KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Injuries and depth issues in the secondary are forcing Tennessee to rely on freshman cornerbacks.
Riyahd Jones, who opened training camp atop the depth chart at cornerback, missed a second straight day of practice Tuesday with a leg injury. Tennessee coach Butch Jones said the junior college transfer "is still undergoing further evaluation" and wouldn't speculate on when he might return. Redshirt freshman cornerback Michael Williams sat out Tuesday's practice with a shoulder injury, though he's expected back in the next couple of days.
Those injuries put even more pressure on freshman cornerbacks Cameron Sutton and Malik Foreman to make an immediate impact. Even before Riyahd Jones got hurt, Sutton had been working on the first-team defense alongside junior Justin Coleman, a returning starter.
"They're going to have to play," Butch Jones said. "That's where we're at in our program. We're going to have to rely on some freshmen on the edges of our defense at the corner position. It is what it is. We're trying to force feed them. We're trying to challenge them on every single rep. Every single rep's a learning experience for them."
In an attempt to boost Tennessee's depth, wide receiver Vincent Dallas and running back Reggie Juin have been working out in the secondary this week. In another possible switch, Jalen Reeves-Maybin has moved from safety to linebacker. Jones said he wanted to see Dallas at cornerback this week before determining whether he could best help the team on offense or defense.
Dallas spent most of last year's training camp in the secondary before moving back to receiver. He said his history of playing multiple positions has helped him adapt to the potential move.
"I was playing DB one time and then I moved to receiver and now I'm back at DB," Dallas said. "I'm just ready for sudden change and ready to play wherever he needs me to play."
Even if Dallas stays in the secondary, the Vols will need Sutton and Foreman to play right away.
These untested cornerbacks won't get a chance to ease into their new assignments. The list of quarterbacks Tennessee faces before November includes Oregon's Marcus Mariota, Florida's Jeff Driskel, Georgia's Aaron Murray, South Carolina's Connor Shaw and Alabama's A.J. McCarron. Western Kentucky coach Bobby Petrino, considered one of the game's top passing gurus, gets his chance to expose Tennessee's young cornerbacks on Sept. 7.
"They're doing a great job," Jones said. "We have to get them ready. We have no choices."
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