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“'Boo Carter is special': Tennessee freshman shows up at Vols' spring camp”

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Boo Carter
KNOXVILLE, TN – March 18, 2024 – Defensive Back Boo Carter #23 of the Tennessee Volunteers during spring training on the Robert E. White indoor field at the Anderson Training Center in Knoxville, TN. Photo by Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics

An in-state player from Bradley Central in Cleveland, TN, Boo Carter was one of Tennessee's top priorities in the 2024 class. The former four-star prospect was a dominant player on both sides of the ball in high school and developed into one of the most sought-after players in his class.

Carter was one of the first participants at Tennessee's bowl practice in December, kicking off his time with the Volunteers. But while Carter had success on both ends in high school, the Tennessee native will begin his career in the secondary. Carter said last month that despite his “athlete” status in various recruiting profiles, Carter was recruited to Tennessee as a defensive back, so he's there.

Carter is the type of player who can impress on both sides of the ball, but he has turned heads in the secondary through the first eight practices and two matchups in spring camp at Tennessee.

“He’s been good so far,” Tennessee DC’s Tim Banks said of Carter at the start of spring camp. “As you know, it's very difficult for a freshman, but I think getting him early and getting a chance to acclimate really helped him. Of course, we'll see how he progresses as we put more on the table for him. I'm really excited about him at the moment. We love his skill, his athleticism, his toughness, but we feel the same way about a lot of young guys.”

With seven new defensive backs in the fold, there was a lot of movement between positions (cornerback, safety, STAR) early on as the coaching staff looks to use each player at the position that best suits their strengths and weaknesses. Banks told the media that Carter was one of the guys they moved around early on to see where he fit best.

“The challenge is learning everything for Boo,” Tennessee defensive line coach Willie Martinez said of Carter last week. “Boo is explosive; Put him in any kind of exercise and he will show up. He's so athletic, he's fast, he's got great instincts. It's just a matter of putting it all together into a package, learning it and being consistent. He did a really good job here too; Things have really slowed down for him in the last few practices. You can see it.”

The explosiveness that Martinez is talking about is not only evident in front of the coaching staff. Carter's teammates quickly noticed it too.

“Boo Carter,” Vols WR Squirrel White responded when asked about standout DBs he has competed against in practice. “Boo Carter is special. He's a playmaker out there, flying to the ball, redirecting us and stuff like that. Make good tackles. He was great.”

More from RTI: Dont'e Thornton enters second season in Tennessee “more confident” and “more consistent.”

With a good handful of Tennessee's 2023 secondary and starting talent heading to either the transfer portal or professional football after the season, an opportunity presents itself for those ready to seize the moment. Carter faces an uphill battle at the safety position as a freshman, but could earn playing time through good play on the practice field and good progress over the summer.

“When he plays the STAR position, he puts us in better position than he did in the first few practices, and he understands what the tempo is now,” Martinez said of Carter. He didn't really panic, but he is a very competitive player who wants to win on every play. That's what you love about him. All he cares about is slowing down the process so that it doesn't happen too quickly. It was early, but I think he’s done a really good job in the last few practices.”

Carter’s talent won’t just be limited to the secondary, however. Carter has great athleticism as an offensive star in high school and could prove to be a standout player for Tennessee this season.

“Right now I have to practice kick return and punt return,” Carter told the media in March about using special teams. “But yeah, definitely.”

Head coach Josh Heupel praised Carter after Tennessee's first scrimmage, saying the 5-foot-11 safety “did a great job making plays in space.”

There are plenty of options for Tennessee's defensive backs this spring, and even though Boo Carter is only a freshman, he seems to be catching the attention of his teammates and coaches.

Stay tuned to Rocky Top Insider for more on Tennessee Football Spring Camp heading into the 2024 Orange & White Game on April 13.