We’ll start by reminding, as always, on the first day of practice that you shouldn’t look too much into depth chart or anything else that happens. These observations are first impressions of guys who aren’t even wearing pads yet and should give a baseline for where some guys are, but are far from indicative of what we’ll see come the week of Utah State.
With that out of the way, here’s what we saw as the Vols opened practice Friday night at a soon-to-be expanded Haslam Field:
• We got a feel for at least the initial depth chart as they walked through some formations:
DE Curt Maggitt, DE Corey Vereen, DT Jordan Williams, DT Danny O’Brien, LB A.J. Johnson, LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin, CB Cam Sutton, CB Emmanuel Moseley, NB Justin Coleman, S Brian Randolph, S Devaun Swafford
DE Jaylen Miller, DE LaTroy Lewis, DT Owen Williams, DT Dimarya Mixon, LB Dillon Bates, LB Kenny Bynum, CB Riyahd Jones, CB D’Andre Payne, NB Malik Foreman, S LaDarrell McNeil, S Lemond Johnson
DE Kendal Vickers, DE Derek Barnett, DT Allan Carson, DT Trevarris Saulsberry, LB Neiko Creamer, LB Gavin Bryant, CB Rashaan Gaulden, CB Michael Williams, NB Elliott Berry, S Cortez McDowell, S Todd Kelly Jr.
• Depth chart thoughts: Not too many stunners right off the bat. The starters are mostly what we saw in the spring with one relatively unsurprising wrinkle being Jordan Williams getting the first crack at the three-technique. The only thing that caught us a little off guard was Devaun Swafford starting at safety. He worked as a second-team safety for most of the spring and the coaches must’ve liked what they saw then and over the summer.
Trevarris Saulsberry working with the third team behind a guy like Dimarya Mixon was a little surprising. Saulsberry is coming off an injury and it might be a matter of getting him back into shape a little. We’ll keep an eye on him as the pads go on over the next few days. Most of the newcomers are starting off a little further down the depth chart. That’ll be something we’ll track closely. Again, I wouldn’t put a ton of stock into what unit a newcomer was working with this early in the process. Expect many of them to work at multiple positions and to shuffle around the depth chart.
• Freshman defensive tackle Charles Mosley did make an appearance as a spectator, albeit in a large cast and unable to put any weight on his leg after a car crash in the offseason.
• We didn’t get a great feel for how Evan and Elliott Berry will be used. Elliott worked as a nickelback, but also went through at least one drill as a safety. Evan, though he said he was a corner in interviews recently, was working with the safeties primarily. Both are obviously talented and versatile, and we’ll keep a close eye on where they work throughout camp.
• All of the newcomers were impressive physically on this side of the ball. Dillon Bates looks ready to step on the field Week 1. Rashaan Gaulden, who worked as an outside cornerback, is extremely tall and long. Safeties – Todd Kelly Jr. and Cortez McDowell – are extremely well-built for their position. Linebacker Chris Weatherd looks long and athletic as well.
• Maybe one of the best signs for the defense was seeing a healthy and active Curt Maggitt ready to go. For the first time in recent memory, he had no brace or wrap on and he’s clearly one of the leaders up front.
• Even though it was non-contact work today, defensive tackle Allan Carson still found himself in the hole, the area injured players work.
• A couple special teams notes: Matt Darr appeared to have a good first day. He was up and down in the spring, but he was hitting punts consistently well Friday night. Justin King, Danny O’Brien and Jashon Robertson were working as the three-man personal protection wall in front of him on punt.
• We didn’t get much feel for a depth chart per se, but these were the guys working as punt returners: Devrin Young, Vic Wharton, Pig Howard, Johnathon Johnson, D’Andre Payne, Josh Malone, Evan Berry, Von Pearson, Adrian Gamble, Jacob Carter and Cam Sutton.
Here is the link to our offensive notes and observations.