KNOXVILLE (utsports.com)--Tennessee returned to the practice fields Tuesday but it didn't come without bad news. Offensive lineman Ja'Wuan James, who started all 13 games at right tackle as a freshman in 2010, will "probably" miss the remainder of spring practice because of mononucleosis, according to head coach Derek Dooley.
The Vols were hoping to give newcomer Alex Bullard repetitions at center, but James' absence will force the Notre Dame transfer to fill in at right tackle. Despite the negative news, Dooley had positive observations regarding his young squad following the Vols' fifth spring practice.
"I think the biggest thing that I've noticed here in the first five practices is the young guys, when things don't go their way, they're learning how to play out of it, how to focus on the next play and not get frustrated," Dooley said. "As we all know, every game has a big flow that's constantly changing. The teams that are confident and mature, don't get frustrated and don't get affected are the ones that play out of it. We have a lot of work to do from that standpoint.
"I've seen a lot of physical improvement and that's been encouraging. I think we have a lot of good young talent, especially on offense. We have a long way to go to play with consistency."
GOINS TRADES HEADBAND FOR HELMET
Senior Melvin Goins, a member of Tennessee's basketball team the past two years, suited up for football practice today but was limited. Goins, who averaged 1.7 steals per game as a senior, is putting his defensive skills to the test on the field.
"I told him he'd make all-conference if he just keeps up that pace in football," Dooley joked. "Melvin wanted to play but he hadn't played in a long time. I thought it was better just to come out here now and get a little feel. We're not going to throw him out there in the fire. After spring, maybe he can decide if wants to really invest in it."
...What wide receiver Justin Hunter needs to work on:
"His biggest thing right now is his stature and his strength. That's something he's going to have to work on to be a really good, every-down receiver. People get their hands on him and push him around. His strength development is very important this summer."
...Linebacker Greg King:
"We need Greg to be a dependable player. He's obviously got the size and the explosion but he's missed a lot of football. He has a long way to go. He's doing a little better. I saw some signs out there today but I think it's going to be a long work-in-progress."
ROGERS READY FOR MORE
Da'Rick Rogers used his versatility to get on the field in any way that he could as a freshman last season. While Rogers spent most of the 2010 season with the ball in his hands on end-arounds, he's focused on becoming a more complete wide receiver.
"I think my progression has been good," Rogers said. "Mainly, I've been working on my route-running and my speed off the ball -- things that will help me get more catches. Those have really been the biggest things for me, and it's come along well so far."
Rogers, who ranked fourth among the Vols with 582 all-purpose yards last season, is prepared to do anything he can to help the Vols' success in 2011.
"I'll never shy away taking any balls they give to me," Rogers said. "Receiving the ball is great too, but I'll take it any way they give it to me. I like to be multipurpose. I want to be able to do everything."
Playing alongside fellow wide receiver Justin Hunter, who set the UT freshman record with seven receiving touchdowns in 2010, should be an advantage for Rogers and the Vols' offense.
"Justin is amazing to have on the other side of the ball because he's going to attract all kinds of double-teams," Rogers said. "That will really open up a lot of windows for other people to make plays on this offense."
-The Vols installed their short-yardage and goal-line packages today. Tennessee will return to practice Thursday afternoon.
-Linebacker Greg King, who had season-ending knee surgery last season, said today that he no longer needs a knee brace but will use it sometimes just to be safe.
-Follow Tennessee football on Twitter: @Vol_Football