Tennessee was back on the practice field Saturday afternoon for the second session of fall camp. Here are some notes and observations from the offensive side of the ball during the open portion of practice:
Injury notes: After leaving practice with an injury Friday, receiver Cody Blanc was a spectator on crutches with a large cast on his lower right leg. As we noted last night, there’s no official word, but that injury doesn’t look good for the rising junior. Guard/center Dylan Wiesman and massive walk-on O-lineman Dellen Hash were the offensive players who spent practice in “the hole,” for injury purposes.
How they lined up: Houston made some notes on this after Friday’s practice, but I wanted to try to put a full two-deep up based on what we’ve seen at practice. Again, these will change and evolve regularly, but this is how they’re starting off.
LT Jacob Gilliam, LG Marcus Jackson, C Mack Crowder, RG Kyler Kerbyson, RT Coleman Thomas, TE Ethan Wolf, WR Marquez North, WR Josh Malone, WR Von Pearson, QB Justin Worley, RB Marlin Lane
LT Dontavius Blair, LG Austin Sanders, C Ray Raulerson, RG Marques Pair (Wiesman injured), RT Brett Kendrick, TE Daniel Wolf, WR Jason Croom, WR Pig Howard, WR Josh Smith, QB Nate Peterman and Joshua Dobbs (rotating), RB Jalen Hurd
Some position-by-position thoughts…
Quarterback: It’s hard to get a great feel for the quarterbacks before we see pads and live action, but they seemed a little off overall based on what we saw Saturday. That reflected what Butch Jones said on Friday, as he noted that over 60 balls hit the ground – a number that might be improved Saturday – but still is happening too much. Joshua Dobbs had a couple notable errant throws. On one relatively simple stop route, he airmailed the 6-3 Josh Malone. While working on swing passes, Dobbs also had one slip out of his hands as he tried to rush the throw. Still, there were some good throws by all the QBs at times. Consistency must continue to improve though.
Running backs: Marlin Lane and Jalen Hurd are clearly No. 1 and No. 2, though I thought Devrin Young had a really good practice Saturday. He’s such a natural catching the ball out of the backfield. In the swing pass drill, he made a perfect catch, cut perfectly around the cone and kept his feet inbounds as he got up the field. Young also made a nice one-handed grab and then somersaulted to the ground during one receiving drill. Treyvon Paulk is bigger than I expected. He’s got a powerful lower body – more in the mold of Maurice Jones-Drew or Michael Turner – than I realized. It’s still hard to get a feel for how recovered he is from his knee injury, but he looks like he could be powerful.
Wide receivers: Jason Croom, listed at 243 pounds, almost looks like he could be 250. In one blocking drill on Saturday, he moved the blocking sled several yards, while most of the other receivers only inched it forward. It’ll be interesting to see how the coaches utilize that size and strength. Pig Howard – normally labeled as a slot receiver – got some work as an outside receiver with the second unit while Josh Smith worked in the slot. One guy who keeps grinding is Drae Bowles. He’s back from an injury in the spring and, while I’m not going to say he’s going to be in the rotation, he gives a ton of effort in practice and should find a niche on special teams, if nothing else.
Tight ends: Ethan Wolf looks slimmer after coming in with closer to a lineman frame in the spring. He was working with the starters and has the look of a versatile blocking and receiving tight end. The coaches are relieved to see some depth at the position again. There are still some signs of trauma: three of them – Brendan Downs, A.J. Branisel and Daniel Helm – all have a brace on their leg. But they’re on the field and, joined by Alex Ellis, Joe Stocstill and Woody Quinn, there are a lot of options at the position after being down to basically one at times in 2013.
Offensive line: Coach Don Mahoney started the day with a good chewing out session directed toward the entire group as it was a little lethargic getting started. Jacob Gilliam is still working with the starters at left tackle, though Dontavius Blair looks to be in better shape and is picking up the offense. With Wiesman sitting out with a minor injury, Marques Pair got some looks at guard and Brett Kendrick worked as the second-team right tackle.
Butch Jones on the mic: After a relatively quiet start on Friday, Jones got after a few players on Saturday.
• He called Kendrick the team’s first “energy vampire” of the season as the practice got started.
• He also reminded Jalen Hurd that he’s not too good to help on special teams as the freshman was going through a punt coverage rep. “Last I checked, both running backs at Alabama started on special teams, Jalen!”
Here is a link to today’s Defensive Notes and Observations.