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Former local prep stars shine for football Vols

Freshman receiver Cody Blanc (36) snags a pass for the White team in UT's intrasquad spring game at Neyland Stadium. Eric Gordon (24) defends for the Orange team. Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley said Blanc, who just finished his high school career at Central last fall, was a significant contributor this spring and "is going to be a good football player" for the Vols. Photo provided by University of Tennessee.

By Steve Williams

Cody Blanc’s first spring football practice at UT was a success and head coach Derek Dooley foresees good things down the road for the former Knoxville Central High School standout.

Blanc, a 6-1, 200-pound receiver, capped spring drills with three catches for 38 yards in the Orange and White game at Neyland Stadium April 21. Playing for the White team, his longest reception covered 17 yards. He was targeted by junior quarterback Tyler Bray in a 2-minute drill at the end of the game as the White tried to come from behind.

But the Orange team held on for a 17-14 win. Marlin Lane ran for two touchdowns to lead the victors. Jacob Carter, a red-shirt sophomore from Nashville Ensworth who also had a good spring as a receiver, led the Orange with six catches for 42 yards.

“They (Carter and Blanc) have been it all spring,” said Dooley in his post-game comments. “Jacob (6-0, 190) has been a good steady hand. I talked about his consistency a few days ago.

“Cody is a bigger guy. He’s big and fast, he really is. His big deal is that he just doesn’t play much. He’s new, a mid-year guy in high school. He is going to be a good football player, so it’s good to have him out there.

“We’re thin at wideout and we needed those two guys. Justin (Hunter) is not out there and we’re just thin in numbers.”

Hunter, one of the nation’s top receivers, is coming back from knee surgery and was held out of the intrasquad game.

Another Knox County product, former Bearden High star Devrin Young, was a Surprise Award winner this spring.

“He has had a great spring and is going to help us at running back,” said Coach Dooley, after Young totaled 124 all-purpose yards playing for the White team. He rushed for 39 yards on eight attempts, had two receptions for 15 yards and returned three kickoffs for 70 yards.

Young, a quick 5-8, 171-pound sophomore, is bracketed with Lane and Rajion Neal at tailback on Tennessee’s post spring depth chart. Young also is at the top of the depth chart as the Vols’ punt and kick returner.

Several other former high school players from Knox County also participated in the Orange and White game, including Kyler Kerbyson of Catholic, who started at left tackle for the Orange offense. The 6-5, 320-pound red-shirt freshmen is listed as the backup at left tackle on UT’s depth chart going into the off-season.

Also playing in the game for the White team were sophomore defensive back Michael Williams (Bearden), red-shirt junior wide receiver Tyler Drummer (Powell and Cumberland University), red-shirt sophomore fullback Austin Bolen (Farragut) and red-shirt junior defensive lineman Joseph Ayres (Chattanooga McCallie). Gregory Grieco, a red-shirt sophomore linebacker from Farragut, saw action for the Orange team.

Daniel Hood, another Catholic High product, did not play in the game because of injury, but the 6-4, 293-pound red-shirt junior will be a returning letterman this fall at defensive tackle.

A crowd of 35,421 turned out for the game, which was competitive from start to finish.

Lane scored on runs of 19 and 39 yards for the Orange. The White got a 2-yard touchdown run from Neal and a 1-yard scoring pass from Bray to Mychal Rivera. Derrick Brodus’ 37-yard field goal with 9:04 remaining broke a 14-14 tie and turned out to be the winning margin.

“Overall, (I was) real pleased with the spring,” said Dooley after the game. “Real pleased with the attitudes the players have had and the work ethic and now we turn the page and get ready for real ball.”

Dooley also revealed what his parting message to his players would be as they break. “The starting point is we have to finish the academics the good way,” he said, “and then get ready for a great summer because we have a lot to build on and I hope they see that … Gotta keep working.”

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