When Tennessee opens its second spring practice under head coach Butch Jones on Friday, the Vols will be without a couple of scholarship players.
As we indicated last week in our wide receiver preview and in the war room, Alton "Pig" Howard is on a leave of absence from the team.
Howard has been battling some personal issues throughout the spring semester. Tennessee has worked to help Howard since he returned to school back in January, but Howard has not remotely been a regular participant in offseason drills. The junior from Orlando, Fla., who led the team last season with 44 catches and 3 touchdowns to go with 93 yards rushing, participated in some winter workouts, but his attendance has been minimal at best over the last few weeks. After extensive conversations, head coach Butch Jones and Howard decided it was best for Howard at this time that football was not a part of his work load as he focuses on trying to deal with various personal issues.
Howard will miss all of spring. His return is clearly up in the air at this point, but he would be welcomed back obviously if he can get things in order in his life.
With Howard out for the spring, junior college receiver Von Pearson is expected to work as the first team slot receiver to open up spring with Marquez North and Jason Croom as the outside wide outs.
While Howard's status for the future is unclear, defensive tackle Greg Clark's appears certain. Sources tell Volquest that Clark has left the team and is giving up football. He was around as late as this past weekend workout, but he's not expected to continue his career and he's not listed on Tennessee's roster on utsports.com. Clark had been on every updated offseason roster until the past week.
Clark played sparingly a year ago registering 7 tackles in 10 games played. Tennessee has a great need at tackle, where Danny O'Brien and Owen Williams are expected to open at tackle while Trevarrus Saulsberry continues to recover from last season.