Friday’s practice began with Butch Jones setting the tempo early for his team. Jones was heard on the microphone all day, calling out some players and motivating others. The team seemed to respond well and demonstrated good energy throughout the open portion of practice for a Friday, especially considering that the Vols are scheduled for a ‘two-a-day’ tomorrow.
I felt like the offense had a pretty strong day overall after a tough week to this point. I spent a lot of time watching the quarterbacks today and I felt that they took a step forward as a unit – not a huge step, but a step. The media only got to watch six periods on Friday, so there wasn’t as much action to report on.
Here are the offensive notes from the day.
Butch on the Mic: As I mentioned above, Coach Jones was extremely vocal on the microphone during the open portion of today’s practice. He started off by encouraging his offense to turn the corner today.
“We’re getting the ball back today, offense. We are going to put our name on the ball today.” He also issued a challenge to the defense as well. “Coming after the D-line today…SOFT!” He then turned his focus to A.J. Johnson, asking him if his defensive squad was ready to play. “Do they need another pep talk, A.J.? They look like they are trying to endure practice, A.J.”
At one point early in practice the music suddenly cut off and Jones took the opportunity to crack a joke.
“Are the music people on strike today, or what?”
As the team broke from stretch and into punt work Jones issued a final motivator to his team.
“This is like recess! The Vols get to have recess today! We are coming to work today, right from the get-go.”
Passing Game Improves: The quarterbacks looked like they stepped up a bit on Friday – at least during the open portion of practice. During skeleton drills (no lines, just QB and one WR against two DBs) they threw the ball well, especially Nathan Peterman. Peterman had one of his best performances of camp during skeleton drills. The drill got started when Peterman hit Von Pearson on a deep fly route for a long touchdown. Pearson got by the corner and after putting a slight move on Devaun Swafford found himself streaking wide open down the sideline.
Walk on receiver Adrian Gamble broke free for a deep touchdown as well, getting by LaDarrell McNeil in the seem after Gamble had released from the corner. Gamble had a nice day and the walk-on looks like he will be looking at some playing time next year. Due to NCAA transfer rules and barring an unforeseen waiver, Gamble will be forced to sit out the 2014 season.
Josh Malone does a very nice job of getting open on deep routes, but got called out by Zach Azzanni for not high-pointing the football on a few occasions. Malone has all of the talent in the world, but still lacks some discipline and technique in various facets of the game. He was able to beat Emmanuel Moseley for a deep touchdown and got behind Devaun Swafford for what would have been another, but a slightly underthrown ball by Josh Dobbs was deflected away by a recovering Swafford at the last second.
I also thought that Josh Smith, Johnathon Johnson and Pig Howard all had solid days. All three were complimented at various times for their leadership and effort during drill work. Johnson actually took the walk-through repetitions with the first team today at receiver thanks to his recent effort. Azzanni was overheard complimenting him for “…always doing things right.” Also, Vic Wharton was once again solid and consistent throughout practice.
Running Game Steps Up: In what turned out to be the most spirited drill of the day, the offense and defense faced off in a running game competition that came down to the final rep to declare a winner.
The drill pitted defensive front seven against the offensive line with a tight end on the line, a quarterback and a running back with the offense trying to pick up positive yards. The drill took place on the opposite side of the field from where I was standing, but it appeared to be a strong day for the offense. Twice running backs were able to break free for touchdowns, but the defense also made some solid stops as well.
The drill ended up tied 4-4 with the defense winning the final rep to go up 5-4, however, an offsides penalty gave the offense another rep and they were able to capitalize. The offense ended up winning the overall drill much to the delight of Butch Jones, who took the opportunity to compliment his offense’s ability to refocus and win the drill.
Injury Notes: Not too much to report on this front today, but Derrell Scott was held out of contact work again today. Dylan Wiesman was without shoulder pads and spent his practice doing strength work in the hole.
Marquez North also spent his day on the sidelines riding a stationary bike throughout practice. It is unclear if North was injured or simply being held out in preparation for tomorrow’s scrimmage. The coaches have been known to do that with certain players to limit reps.
Here is the link to today’s Defensive 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.