The offensive lineman's stature as a promising freshman, though, was diminished -- at least temporarily -- by injury. He missed approximately a week's worth of workouts before returning last Friday.
The Vols' freshman class is more than just Smith, however. Theo Jackson and LaTrell Bumphus have had the black stripes removed from their helmets by decision of their position peers. Others are gaining notice at several positions.
As Tennessee continues its preparations for the Sept. 4 opener against Georgia Tech in Atlanta, here's a look at some of the freshmen:
Although secondary coach Charlton Warren stopped short of saying last week that a freshman is threatening to make the two-deep on UT's depth chart, Jackson is in the mix at safety. The 6-1, 178-pounder also has been taking reps as a punt returner.
Jackson, who's from Nashville, has impressed Warren and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop.
"If there's one guy who has probably emerged that I maybe didn't expect to is Theo Jackson," Shoop said last week. "As a freshman, he has a composure about him and he has a high intellect. The game is just not too fast for him. He asks 200 level questions in meetings, and I think Charlton and I are both really pleased with his progress so far."
The tight end (6-3, 258) from Savannah, Tenn., already seems suited for the physical style of play being promoted by first-year offensive coordinator Larry Scott.
"He's going to be a really good player eventually," fellow tight end Ethan Wolf said. "He's young and he's raw, but he's conscientious and he's explosive. He's big and I didn't even really know how big he was coming in.
"I think of him a little bit like myself when I was a freshman. He's an explosive kid and he can run very well and the biggest thing is that he's coachable."
The linebacker (6-1, 228) from Huntsville, Ala., is building a profile similar to Jackson and Bumphus.
"Will is head and shoulders above any other linebacker that has come in," fellow linebacker Colton Jumper said. "He knows the game really well and is a smart guy. When I came in my first camp, it was just setting up the front and knowing where to line up. He's way past that and he's starting to get coverages down, pass patterns down."
"He's highly football intelligent and he's very confident out there," Shoop said. "He's absolutely 100 percent making freshman mistakes but at the same time, you can see it's not too big for him."
3 running backs
UT football coach Butch Jones has said all three of the first-year running backs -- Ty Chandler, Tim Jordan and Trey Coleman -- will play. The lack of depth behind starter John Kelly might require it.
Chandler (5-11, 195, Nashville) has a higher profile. Jordan (5-11, 196, Winter Haven, Fla.) and Coleman (5-11, 214, West Monroe, La.) pack some punch.
"They're physical right now," Kelly said, "a lot more physical than we've had in the past."
Senior Josh Smith was limited earlier in preseason camp and Palmer (6-2, 198, Brampton, Ontario, Canada) took advantage of the extra practice reps at receiver.
"He has a skill set, a lot of natural ability and he works very hard," Jones said. "He's a very intelligent player so he's been able to maintain the volume of the playbook and I see him getting better and better from his releases at the line of scrimmage."
The defensive lineman (6-4, 274, Raleigh, N.C.) is impressing coaches and teammates as he rotates between tackle and end.
Defensive line coach Brady Hoke hopes to utilize as many as 10 linemen. Butler should have an opportunity.
The Knoxville News-Sentinel—