It was a light morning’s work for the Vols as they mostly worked to correct mistakes from Saturday’s scrimmage. This was the first of two practices slated for today, the next one scheduled for 6:50 this evening.
Here are a few notes and observations from the RTI team:
O-Line Shift: It was a different look for the offensive line this morning as Mack Crowder was a limited participant in the morning’s work. Redshirt junior Kyler Kerbyson worked at center today with freshman Jashon Robertson getting a look at right guard. Crowder was on the field and dressed, so this may be nothing more than an opportunity to get first team reps for the younger guys. Kerbyson sliding to center would seem like the obvious move should something happen to Mack during the season. This is Kyler’s fourth year in the program and he is a player that the coaches have a lot of confidence in.
A guy who has quietly put together a very strong fall camp to this point is wide receiver Johnathon Johnson. Johnson continues to take reps with the first team offense in walk-through and is one of the most commonly praised players among the receivers. He runs all of his routes to perfection and has had a great camp catching the football. Johnson had 13 catches for 189 yards last year and he is currently in a position to greatly expand on that production this season.
The other first team receivers this morning were Josh Smith and Marquez North with Justin Worley and Jalen Hurd in the backfield. Josh Smith is another guy who is playing with a lot of confidence right now. Now that he’s healthy he has really shown in practices that he has the ability to make some big plays at this level.
Special Teams: The first-team kick coverage unit got some work this morning as well as they worked on various kick coverages. Dillon Bates and Elliott Berry were among the players on the field when the first team’s number was called. Cam Sutton, A.J. Johnson and Justin Coleman were also out there as the staff is clearly intent on making sure that their best players are present on their special teams units. With all of the added speed and talent on this year’s team, the biggest impact may be seen on special teams as many of the newcomers will certainly see significant playing time.
Black Stripes Removed: The first group of newcomers had their black helmet stripes removed this morning at the team meeting. It was all freshmen this morning as Emmanuel Moseley, Derek Barnett, Jalen Hurd and Ethan Wolf were all ‘welcomed to the Vol family’ as Butch Jones put it in his tweet before practice began.
Most impressive of that list has to be Derek Barnett. While the other three players were able to enroll early and go through spring practice, Barnett only arrived a few weeks ago and has already made quite an impression. The Middle Tennessee native has been one of the most surprising player in camp to this point regardless of age. He possesses the size and speed that coaches covet at this level and has the attitude that you can’t teach.
Depth chart notes: There isn’t a ton to report in terms of guys shuffling around the depth chart after Saturday night’s scrimmage. The secondary has remained constant with the first squad, though Todd Kelly Jr. and Cortez McDowell, both of whom missed the scrimmage with injury concerns, were back working on Monday. Kelly saw some work with the second team.
One guy who is showing up more and more is linebacker Chris Weatherd, who we observed getting some first-team work in various looks. And with Curt Maggitt out on Monday, Derek Barnett, who obviously has received a ton of praise this camp, also got some first-team work at defensive end. Dillon Bates continues to get a ton of work with the second team and some situational first-team work when A.J. Johnson gets a break. The second secondary continues to look something roughly like this: CB Riyahd Jones, CB D’Andre Payne, NB Malik Foreman, S LaDarrell McNeil and S Todd Kelly Jr/Lemond Johnson.
Drills: We saw primarily individual drills on Monday morning, not a ton of live action. The defensive linemen worked on their footwork and reading/reaction to different types of plays. The secondary worked on a variety of drills such as one where they practiced making legal, hard hits on a dummy coming across the middle.
On special teams, Treyvon Paulk, Jalen Hurd and Evan Berry were among the players getting work at kick returner. Berry got an earful from Butch Jones for mishandling a few of them, though, once he got a hold of them, he continues to show the athleticism needed to be a factor in that area.
Injuries: LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin went through practice with a green, non-contact jersey. Curt Maggitt did not participate. Rashaan Gaulden was back working with the cornerbacks after spending some time in “The Hole” last week.