The Vols were back on the practice field on Thursday after having Wednesday off. Even with yesterday off, however, the players were still able to get in a lot of ‘classroom’ work as they had a team meeting and position meetings both mornings before heading back out on the field this afternoon.
Thursday’s work featured some team period situational work and some skeleton drills in the red-zone, as well the ever-present position drills. It was a pretty solid day for the defense overall during scrimmage settings – which it normally is during the start of fall camp until the offense begins to gel.
Here are the noteworthy items from the defensive side of the ball:
Strong Start: Butch Jones began practice by announcing to everyone within earshot that the defense was ahead 1-0 over the offense – probably a notch for winning the overall competition for the first padded practice on Tuesday. The defensive field had a lot of energy during warm-ups as it was, but their coach’s public compliment seemed to amp them up even more.
The brothers Berry continue to get some run with the second team in certain formations and look like they are quickly putting themselves in position for meaningful snaps this fall. Evan continued his work with the safeties today while Elliott took his reps with the linebackers. For a team that was very handcuffed down the stretch last year in the secondary, it looks like there will be a lot more options this year thanks to players like Evan and Elliot, as well as guys like Emmanuel Moseley, Todd Kelly Jr., D’Andre Payne (who had a rough practice today, but looks like a promising talent), and Rashaan Gaulden. Rashaan has to get more consistent in his approach, but his skill set is obvious.
Walk-Through: Redshirt sophomore LaTroy Lewis got some repetitions with the first team at defensive end today as the coaches on defense continue to work Curt Maggitt in a number of positions that will allow him to create havoc for offenses. Curt was seen lined up all over the field today and appears comfortable in just about any role the coaches put him in.
It’s also worth noting that the second team defensive ends on Thursday were none other than freshmen Dewayne Hendrix and Derek Barnett. I know that everyone at RTI has been very impressed with what these two players have been doing so far this month, and it appears that the coaches have also been pleased with the work they put in. Neither look like the second coming of Reggie White or Shaun Ellis at this point, but the two newcomers appear to be adjusting nicely.
Butch on the Mic: During special teams work today, Butch Jones was attempting to call out Evan Berry when the coach made a slight faux pas.
“You’re too high Eric Berry!” Jones said.
But, thanks to his masterful and ever-ready wit, Jones was able to quickly recover.
“Come on, Evan. I wish you were Eric. Come on Evan, you’re too high. You’re just going through the motions. Use your technique.”
Live Action: In the 11 on 11 work to begin period three, the 1st and 2nd string defensive units really looked strong. It was a end of game situational scrimmage setting that put the offense down by two with about a minute to go on the clock and only one timeout.
The first team forced a four-and-out as the offense could only must about five yards on a swing pass to Marlin Lane. Justin Worley‘s fourth down pass sailed deep down the field to nobody thanks to some pressure by the defense that caused a miscommunication between he and Pig Howard.
The second team defense had similar success as they also forced a four-and-out against a Josh Dobbs-led offense. The defense was again able to generate some pressure on the quarterback and get the offense out of rhythm.
The first team defense got a huge play on their second round of action in the same situational drill as Justin Worley under threw a jump ball to Marquez North. Freshman Emmanuel Moseley got his head turned around in time and was able to elevate and intercept on the ball. It was a poor throw by Worley, but credit the freshman for going up for a jump ball with a physical receiver like North and coming down with the INT.
Nathan Peterman was able to lead the two’s down the field for a field goal attempt on the next series and Aaron Medley banged home a 31 yard field goal for the ‘win.’ Even though Rocky Top blared over the speakers for the offense’s only win, the defense had to feel good about their overall work.
Scouts About: There were a few NFL scouts in attendance today representing the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans. The scouts for the Titans and Bills spent their time heavily observing the drill work of the defensive backs under coach Willie Martinez. Without having official knowledge of who they were looking at mostly, I’d say that Brian Randolph and Cam Sutton were likely names on their list. Butch Jones’ relationships with various NFL staffs will no doubt give his players an advantage in the future, and will certainly be used as a strong selling point for recruits.
7-on-7: The ‘skeleton’ portion of practice also proved to be a strong session for the defense. In a drill that gives the offense a very strong advantage due to the absence of a pass rush, the first team defense only allowed only one completion in the red-zone. The second and third team units did not fair as well, however, as Nathan Peterman and Josh Dobbs each found the end zone multiple times. Vic Wharton caught two touchdowns during skeleton work, one against Riyahd Jones and the other against Evan Berry.
Here’s the link to today’s Offensive Notes and Observations.
Editor’s note: Any depth chart notes should be considered unofficial and often change from practice to practice. Per UT policy, we do not report specifics on any formations or schemes.