The task wasn't all that difficult in 2009-10. You knew Wayne Chism would get most of the minutes in the post and Tyler Smith would get most of the minutes at power forward (until he was dismissed in January). You knew J.P. Prince and Cameron Tatum would divide the playing time at small forward, with Scotty Hopson getting the lion's share of minutes at shooting guard and Bobby Maze getting most of the playing time at the point.
Distributing the minutes won't be nearly so simple this season. That's because five newcomers - UNC Wilmington transfer John Fields, Marquette transfer Jeronne Maymon, freshman Tobias Harris, freshman Jordan McRae and freshman Trae Golden - will have dramatic impact on the playing rotation.
Fields, a 6-9, 230-pound shot-blocking specialist, will push 6-10, 270-pound senior Brian Williams for playing time in the post. Sophomore Kenny Hall (6-9, 225) played the post last winter but appears likely to see more action at power forward in 2010-11.
Harris, a 6-9, 210-pounder rated America's No. 1 power forward prospect by Scout.com, projects to start as a freshman. That leaves junior Renaldo Woolridge (6-10, 220), Hall and senior Steven Pearl (6-5, 235) battling for playing time in reserve.
Maymon, exceptionally agile for a 6-6, 240-pounder, projects to give junior Cameron Tatum (6-6, 200) quite a battle for the first-team job at small forward. McRae (6-5, 185) has the length and athleticism to be a phenomenal fit in Tennessee's uptempo game. He'll be a major factor at the position sooner or later ... probably sooner.
Hopson (6-7, 205) returns as the starter at shooting guard but the picture behind him is seriously muddled. Sophomore Skylar McBee (6-3, 190) is a streaky shooter who also is hoping to see action at the point. Golden (6-1, 190) has scoring potential but appears better suited to the point. The afore-mentioned McRae has explosive offensive abilities but might need a better jump shot to excel at the 2 spot.
As for the point, flashy senior Melvin Goins (5-11, 195) is the heir-apparent to 2009-10 starter Bobby Maze. Goins' skills as a defender and penetrator are ideal for UT's fast-paced system but he tends to play out of control at times. That could open the door for fellow senior Josh Bone (6-3, 195), who is far less dynamic but also far less turnover-prone. Golden could get some meaningful minutes at the point, and McBee is a possibility.
That said, here are one man's projections for 2010-11 playing time:
POST: Brian Williams 20 minutes, John Fields 15, Kenny Hall 5
POWER FORWARD: Tobias Harris 15 minutes, Kenny Hall 10, Renaldo Woolridge 10, Steven Pearl 5
SMALL FORWARD: Cameron Tatum 20 minutes, Jeronne Maymon 15, Jordan McRae 5
SHOOTING GUARD: Scotty Hopson 25 minutes, Skylar McBee 10, Jordan McRae 5
POINT GUARD: Melvin Goins 20 minutes, Josh Bone 10, Trae Golden 10