Tennessee’s 160-pound ‘Squirrel’ eager to make mark in SEC

A debate emerged earlier this week regarding the fastest player on Tennessee’s football roster, with junior receiver Jimmy Holiday, sophomore running back Jaylen Wright, freshman running back Dylan Sampson and freshman receiver Squirrel White being the primary candidates.

There is no question as to the lightest player for the Volunteers.

At 5-foot-10 and just 160 pounds, White needs 20 pounds to catch the next-lightest Vols player, junior receiver Jalin Hyatt. In April, Hyatt admitted to eating six times a day in his attempt to pack on pounds.

Being the smallest on the field is something White was used to way before becoming a three-star prospect at Clay-Chalkville High School in Pinson, Alabama, which is roughly 20 miles north of Birmingham.

“I’ve had to be tough my whole life, and that started with backyard football and playing with my brothers,” White said in a news conference. “We used to play tackle, and I would cry sometimes, but then I’d get right back up and go at it.”

The Vols had an off day on Friday after practicing Monday through Thursday.

White, who enrolled in January, has managed to counter his smaller frame with blazing speed, which was evidenced by his second-place finishes at the AHSAA track meet during his junior year at Clay-Chalkville, running the 100-meter dash in 10.68 seconds and the 200 in 21.58. He committed to the Vols last summer and then produced a senior football season that contained 49 receptions for 1,162 yards and 16 touchdowns.

After Monday’s opening workout, when White got past Tennessee’s freshman defensive backs on multiple occasions during the practice periods that were open to the media, second-year coach Josh Heupel said, “He’s not slow, that’s for sure.”

“I think that’s my biggest asset, just beating DBs deep and even short — really just going in there and dominating them,” White said. “It’s something that I’ve always worked on from me being little. I’m just trying not to let the defense get their hands on me.”

Of course, having your way with classmates on the first day of preseason camp and trying to do the same on a Southeastern Conference weekend are two different things. The league boasts plenty of talented defenders with size, most notably Georgia cornerback Keelee Ringo (6-2, 205) and Alabama corner Eli Ricks (6-2, 190), who were tabbed to the league’s preseason first team.

White has been working this first week at the slot receiver position behind Hyatt and redshirt sophomore Jimmy Calloway.

“Squirrel, for a freshman, was as impressive this spring handling school and football at the same time as I’ve seen,” Vols offensive coordinator Alex Golesh said. “It’s probably because he just kind of stays to himself and doesn’t let outside distractions affect who he is and what he does. It’s going to get harder and harder for him given the competition.

“If we leave camp with some depth there, I would be beyond excited. That would be better than we were a year ago.”

For White, whose given first name is Marquarius, the objective between now and the Sept. 1 season opener against Ball State is pretty simple.

“I’m just trying to maintain my weight,” he said, “and get bigger, stronger and faster.”

 

Scrimmages set

Tennessee announced that its first preseason scrimmage will be Tuesday morning and that its second will be on the morning of Sunday, Aug. 14. Both scrimmages will be closed.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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