Tennessee Spring Practice Report: 3/21/17

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    Photo Credit: Will Boling/RTI

    Some notes and observations from the practice field as the Vols took Haslam Field for the first time this spring on Tuesday. 

    Initial quarterback thoughts: It’s Day 1, so it’s dangerous to make any kind of conclusions about the quarterbacks at this time, but we did get our first impressions of the QB race, which obviously will be one of the biggest storylines of the offseason.

    In terms of the “organizational chart,” there’s a clear separation of both Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano getting the first opportunities, following by Sheriron Jones, freshman Will McBride and walk-on Zac Jancek. Dormady and Guarantano generally worked together in throwing routes and got more opportunities with the first and second teamers. Both Dormady and Guarantano started out a bit rusty when working on the deep routes. Both were behind and outside on some go routes down the sideline, but both also seemed to settle in after a few throws.

    The best throw of the day may have come from Guarantano on a deep route to walk-on tight end Andrew Craig as he hit him right in stride near the goal line. Keep in mind, all of these throws were against air, with no pass rush and with no pads on. So while both showed they have the tools to be the starter, it’ll probably take several practices, at minimum, to get much of an idea of who is separating in this race.

    New quarterbacks coach Mike Canales spent the entire open portion of practice following the QBs and barking out instructions about technique. Offensive coordinator Larry Scott and head coach Butch Jones also checked in on them a couple times.

    O-line observations: The offensive line group had a different feel to it from a coaching standpoint.

    After usually having three pretty vocal coaches last year in Mike DeBord, Don Mahoney and Walt Wells, it’s only Wells leading them now. All eyes were on freshman Trey Smith, who got several pointers from Wells on his technique as he worked at left tackle. Smith has the look of a guy who can play very early, but, like the quarterbacks, it’s tough to make too much of a judgement on Day 1 before the pads go on.

    Several of the second-year players such as Nathan Niehaus, Ryan Johnson and Devante Brooks, who is transitioning from tight end to tackle, all looked to have added some good weight and look closer to playing.

    Other thoughts: 

    • You could see the difference that Butch Jones spoke about with Jonathan Kongbo. Working primarily at defensive end this spring, Kongbo looks noticeably leaner and quicker this spring as he’s playing closer to 260 pounds. Tennessee will ask a lot of him coming off the edge with the Vols replacing Derek Barnett, Corey Vereen and LaTroy Lewis in 2017.

    • Austin Smith, who has battled injuries for much of his career at Tennessee, was working with the linebackers on Tuesday. He started out as an OLB out of high school, worked with the defensive line some last year, and appears to have made the switch back.

    • As Jones confirmed on Monday, wide receiver Brandon Johnson, offensive lineman Brett Kendrick, defensive back Rashaan Gaulden, defensive end Kyle Phillips, receiver Josh Smith, defensive tackle Shy Tuttle, defensive tackle Kendal Vickers and safety Micah Abernathy are all out.

    • One other noticeable absence from practice: A lot of screaming from Butch Jones. Heading into his fifth year, and with a completely new-look staff, Jones was about as quiet as I’ve ever heard on the practice field. Is that a sign that he’s turning a little more over to his staff, or just a first day anomaly? We’ll keep listening.

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