That’s why the return of redshirt freshman Marsalous Johnson from a four-game suspension could be quite significant for the Vols. Johnson allegedly pointed a pellet gun at an off-duty policeman last summer, leading to his arrest by police and his suspension by UT coach Phillip Fulmer.
Now that he has been reinstated, Johnson could see action in Saturday’s game at Memphis. If nothing else, the 5-9, 180-pound Smyrna native gives Tennessee another warm body at cornerback.
“He gives you another guy, from the standpoint of depth,” Vol secondary coach Larry Slade notes. “He’s a guy who can play some reps. We feel a lot better about having that extra guy, believe me. He’s been getting ready to play, and he may play some this week. We’ll see.”
Although he was suspended from playing, Johnson was not suspended from practicing. Thus, he has everything he needs – mentally, physically and technically – except for game experience.
“He has done well (in practice),” Slade says. “He didn’t just start getting ready this week. He’s been getting ready the last two or three weeks.”
Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis says Johnson will be able to provide “some help this weekend if we need it.”
Odds are, the Vols will need all the help they can get against a Memphis team that averages 283 passing yards per game. The question is: How ready is Marsalous Johnson to help?
“He’s been working on the scout team most of the time but we’ve been keeping him in meetings and keeping him up on what’s going on,” Chavis says. “He’s not ready to go play a lot but we think we can get a few snaps out of him.”
Fulmer thinks Johnson will play, and offers two reasons why:
“One, because we have such a big need,” the Vols’ head coach notes. ”And, two, because he’s been working and conditioning.”