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    Photo via Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    According to a report from 247Sports, Tennessee has added yet another quality control assistant coach to their staff. And he has quite the track record at both the collegiate and professional level.

    Eric Lews is reportedly the newest addition to an already extremely altered Tennessee coaching staff. Lewis was the defensive backs coach at Georgia State the last two seasons where the Panthers set a school record with 15 interceptions in his first season as defensive backs coach. Lewis was also the defensive coordinator at both Eastern Michigan and Weber State, and he also spent a season as Buffalo’s secondary coach and a season at Louisville as an assistant coaching defensive backs.

    Not only does Lewis have extensive college coaching experience, but he also coached in the NFL for a few seasons as well. Lewis was a defensive quality coach for the Green Bay Packers before joining Louisville in 2008.

    Lewis also played college ball at San Diego State, and he wasn’t too shabby as a player either. Lewis finished with the school’s record for most career pass break-ups at the end of his four years with the Aztecs.

    Walt Wells was hired on in a similar role last season as a quality control assistant on offense, and now he’s been promoted to the Vols’ offensive line coach just a year later. Only time will tell if Lewis will be on the same fast track to promotion as Wells, but Lewis is a solid addition to an already revamped defensive coaching staff.

      Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

      Despite having a breakout year as a junior this past season and putting up impressive numbers at the NFL Combine, former Vol wide receiver Josh Malone still isn’t getting consideration in the early rounds by most NFL scouts and mock drafters. And Malone feels like he deserves more attention.

      “I do feel underrated,” Malone said in an interview on CBS Sports Radio, “just because every time I step on the field, I feel like I’m one of the best wide receivers in the nation. It’s not a bad thing, flying under the radar. But personally, I do feel underrated.

      “I feel like a lot of things on film can put me as one of the top wide receivers in the nation.”

      As a junior, Malone caught 50 passes for 972 yards and 11 touchdowns. Malone’s 972 yards were the ninth-most receiving yards in a single season in Vol history, and his 11 scores were tied for the third-most in a season in program history. Throw in a 4.40 second 40-yard dash time at the combine, and Malone has the stats and measurables that compare favorably to the top receivers in this year’s draft class.

      In his junior year, Malone found his role in Tennessee’s offense as their chief deep threat. But Malone wasn’t just used as a deep pass catcher; the Vols also gave Malone the ball in crucial situations and pivotal third downs. Malone ran more than just one or two routes, and he ran them effectively.

      And Malone feels that versatility separates him from other receivers as well.

      “I feel like I’m very versatile and I can play a lot of positions and do different things,” Malone stated. “I like to be a very balanced wide receiver. I can go inside or outside. I can’t get pigeonholed into just being able to do one thing.

      “And so, just being versatile and doing different things and (working) on different techniques and (being) able to run different routes is just a huge benefit for my game.”

      Although Malone feels he’s underrated, he’s embraced the “underdog” role that he’s in.

      “I’m going to come and play and compete,” Malone said. “I’m not a loud guy. I’m not going to talk a lot. I’m just going to come in, get my job done and handle my business and get off the field and just continue to just fly under the radar and stay low-key.”

      The 2017 NFL Draft runs from April 27th through April 29th. The first round is on April 27th, the second and third rounds are on April 28th, and the final four rounds are on April 29th.

        Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

        It’s understandable if rising senior Ethan Wolf and the rest of the tight ends have an extra smile going out to practice this spring.

        Larry Scott, who coaches the tight ends, was promoted to offensive coordinator over the course of the offseason, giving Wolf’s position coach the keys to calling the offensive plays in 2017. Will that lead to more productivity from this group?

        “I know he does like to throw the ball to the tight end just from his past track record, but we’re hoping for that,” Wolf said following Tennessee’s spring practice on Thursday.”We’re going to do whatever we can. If he throws us the ball, we’re going to make every play.”

        Scott has an extensive history working with and developing tight ends after coaching the position at South Florida, Miami and now Tennessee. He helped develop Oakland Raiders’ tight end Clive Walford, who caught 77 passes for over over 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns during his final two years with the Hurricanes (2013-14). In 2015, Scott also coached Miami tight end David Njoku – who could be a first-round pick in the 2017 draft.

        After being named the tight ends coach at UT in 2016, Scott got decent productivity from the Vol tight ends last year, helping Wolf, Jason Croom and Jakob Johnson to 499 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 45 catches. Croom has moved on, but with Wolf entering his senior season as a fourth-year starter, along with some less-proven players such as Johnson, Austin Pope, Eli Wolf, and summer newcomers LaTrell Bumphus and James Brown all in the equation, Scott will have the opportunity to make the position he’s coached the most thrive in 2017.

        Ethan Wolf says they’re off to a good start this spring.

        “With these first two days in the books, I think we probably, as a collective group in team periods, probably caught close to 13, 14 balls and only one’s been dropped by the four guys that are getting in through the rotations right now,” he said. “So we’re doing a good job at executing the plays when they’re called and we’re going to continue to do that through the spring and hopefully build up a little bit of confidence in the position.”

        Confidence is nice, but productivity will be the goal in the fall. Getting this group will be one of several challenges Scott will face in 2017.

          Photo Credit: Will Boling/RTI

          Some notes and observations from the open portion of spring practice on Thursday afternoon.

          Quarterback notes: The most critiqued position group remained closely watched on Thursday. Larry Scott was the most vocal coach while watching some of the throwing drills, particularly singling out the wide receivers.

          It’s still so early in the competition, but Jarett Guarantano and Quinten Dormady had better days on Thursday after both starting out a bit rusty on Tuesday. While Guarantano threw some gorgeous deep balls on Tuesday, he was also short on some of his passes – an issue that’s come up a few times through the first couple practice. At least in the open portion we’ve seen, Dormady has been more consistent in the two days, but hasn’t had some of the “wow” moments that Guarantano has. It’s certainly going to be an interesting race.

          Guarantano had more throws to the primary receivers today. He threw a couple of nice balls to John Kelly and Carlin Fils-aime. Without Kamara in that backfield, the running backs have done a lot of work catching the ball from all the QBs.

          Guarantano and Dormady were on separate sides of the field. Dormady threw with Sheriron Jones at midfield while Guarantano was with Will McBride in the end zone. The highlight of the day was a one handed catch by tight end Andrew Craig on a Guarantano back shoulder throw.

          Guarantano worked more on short throws, specifically over the middle. He worked out some timing with tight ends Ethan Wolf and Jakob Johnson. On the other side of the field, Dormady was throwing deeper passes on the sideline, similar to what we saw on Tuesday. It makes sense that the less experienced Guarantano was on more timing drills with his tight ends and slot receivers

          RTI’s spring practice coverage is sponsored by the Nautical Boat Club of Knoxville!

          Newcomer thoughts: A few quick thoughts on the five early enrollees this spring after watching them for a couple days:

          OT Trey Smith: Obviously the most physically impressive of the five newcomers, the former top recruit is getting his first opportunity at left tackle and he has the frame the compete for early playing time. Coach Walt Wells has been really pushing him to work on his feet and hand placement through the first couple practices. While Smith certainly has a world of upside, Tennessee also has a lot of options and competition at tackle including Brett Kendrick, Drew Richmond, Chance Hall and others. It’s too early to pencil Smith in anywhere yet.

          • OL Riley Locklear: Locklear looks like a versatile offensive lineman that could potentially end up at any spot, but might be best suited inside. He’s physically ahead of where guys like Marcus Tatum and Nathan Niehaus were coming in last year. Still, I think he’s a redshirt candidate due to Tennessee’s depth on the offensive line.

          • LB Shanon Reid: Two “S”s come to mind: Small and speedy. At 6-0, 205 pound, he’s one of the smallest linebackers I’ve seen in the Butch Jones era, but he can certainly move. He’ll need some time to bulk up to a size that the coaches will feel comfortable with him playing at, but his speed should get him on special teams sooner than later.

          • DE Deandre Johnson: Also a bit undersized compared to some of the other defensive ends, but looks to be a natural pass rusher with a nice first step. Needs some time before he sees the field.

          • QB Will McBride: Small, but seems to be quick and competitive. He’s still getting the kinks worked out as far as learning the drills and how practice operates. He’ll redshirt in 2017 barring a mass exodus and/or injury situation for the quarterbacks.

          Additional Notes:

          • The defensive line was working with the secondary on ball control drills. Alexis Johnson was impressive with his speed off the whistle and ability to get right on the fumbled ball. He worked alongside Kahlil McKenzie. A slimmer Jonathan Kongbo was once again showing off his speed in this drill. When he recovered the ball and ran to the end zone he looked more like a tight end.
          • This is going to be a big spring for sophomore corner Marquill Osborne. He worked alongside Emmanuel Moseley, who said on Tuesday that he’s assumed the “Cam Sutton role” as defensive leader. Osborne was a little slower to recover a fumble, but was quick with the ball once he had it.
          • Justin Martin looked strong in his work alongside Todd Kelly Jr. With so much uncertainty in front of those two on the defense side of the ball, Kelly and Martin have certainly looked like some of the leaders of this unit. Kelly has been the most impressive in that bunch so far.
          • Austin Smith, as Butch Jones confirmed on Tuesday, was working with the linebackers. That’s the only position change at this point.

            Photo Credit: Nick Davis/RTI

            Tennessee will have one open scholarship following the 2016-17 season because a freshman guard is reportedly on his way out.

            Kwe Parker, a 6-0, 180-pound guard out of Fayetteville, N.C., has decided to leave the program, according to a report from Volquest.com/Yahoo.com on Thursday morning.

            He leaves Tennessee after appearing in 25 games, starting one, averaging 8.1 minutes per game and just 1.0 ppg. Outside of Jalen Johnson, who redshirted last season, Parker was the least productive member of the highest-scoring freshman class in Tennessee hoops history.

            Known as one of the most athletic players in his recruiting class with a 45-inch vertical jump, that athleticism never directly translated to the floor for Rick Barnes and the Vols as Parker was a minor contributor for much of the season.

            His departure leaves Barnes the option to add another player in the 2017 signing class, one that already has three players – forward Yves Pons, forward Derrick Walker and center Zach Kent. Those three will take the scholarships of Robert Hubbs III (graduation), Lew Evans (graduation) and Detrick Mostella (dismissed). Barnes could opt to add a graduate transfer, make a late high school or junior college addition or carry that scholarship over to the next class.