It was a ‘sudden change’ Tuesday as Butch Jones went away from the practice script multiple times to challenge his team from the moment they stepped foot onto the practice field. Butch had the team skip their traditional walk-through portion of practice and go immediately into stretch followed by some rare team period work. In a rare change of pace, we actually got to see a lot of 11 on 11 football and there were a lot of takeaways from this afternoon as things look like there are beginning to clear up along the offensive side of the football.
Two Point Work: Jones sent his team into a two point conversion situation to begin the first period of practice in what turned out to be a frustrating stretch of work for the offense. Justin Worley took the first team snaps at quarterback with Devrin Young in the backfield to provide some versatility and cause some confusion for the defense. Johnathon Johnson continues to run with the first team at slot receiver along with Marquez North and the multidimensional Pig Howard as the other receivers. Ethan Wolf was the first team tight end.
The first team offensive line continues to feature Kyler Kerbyson at center with Jashon Robertson at right guard. Brett Kendrick took the majority of the reps at right tackle and Dontavius Blair filled in at left tackle for Jacob Gilliam who was present at practice but did not participate in contact work. Marcus Jackson continues to look very solid at left guard.
Justin Worley threw a perfect fade route to Pig Howard on the first play that Howard caught but could not control as he came to the ground and the pass was ruled incomplete. During the second team’s rep, Peterman avoided a nice blitz by Neiko Creamer on a rollout and delivered a perfect pass to Daniel Helm who just flat out dropped what would have been an easy score. It was a really nice job by Peterman to avoid pressure and stay composed to deliver an excellent pass.
Worley did make one mistake , however, when he threw the ball out of the back of the end zone after being pressured by Corey Vereen. Butch Jones found Worley after the play and told him to never throw a ball away over the middle on a two point conversion. The theory here is that you want to at least give the receiver a chance to make a play because a ball intercepted in the middle of the field isn’t likely to be returned for a score by the defense. It wasn’t a catastrophic play, but more of a teaching opportunity for the head coach.
Red Zone: In keeping with the theme of sudden change Butch Jones went of script again following the two-point work as he sent the team to the opposite side of the field for a red zone scrimmage. The offense would start with the ball on the 20 trying to score.
Worley hit Devrin Young on a swing pass on first down and followed it with another perfectly thrown fade route to Marquez North who came down with an impressive touchdown over Emmanuel Moseley. Their next series featured another nice swing pass to Devrin Young who was able to outrace defenders around the edge and get to the pylon for a diving touchdown.
Justus Pickett had a nice bit of work during the red zone work as the Vols tried to give the defense a lot of different looks this afternoon. Pickett had two touchdowns on well blocked draw plays – one each with the second and third teams – and ran really hard throughout the scrimmage portion of practice.
Nathan Peterman continued his strong performance this week as he wasted little time in hitting Jason Croom on a fade route for a touchdown on his first rep in the red zone. Peterman took full advantage of Croom’s size and simply threw a jump ball for the big-bodied wideout who was lined up against the much smaller D’Andre Payne. Peterman followed that pass up with a perfect seam throw to Daniel Helm for another touchdown.
Josh Dobbs also got in some good reps, hitting Johnathon Johnson for a score in his first series and running in for another on a play action bootleg.
Quarterbacks: After the live action, the quarterbacks transitioned into passing drills with the wide receivers, tight ends and running backs at various times. They seemed much more dialed in todayas a unit, as I only saw seven passes hit the ground throughout the three sessions and a few of those were easy drops. No balls hit the ground at all when they worked with tight ends and running backs
It just seems that this group may finally be playing with a level of comfort in the offense that we hadn’t seen to this point. By no means have they ‘arrived’ but most of the little mistakes that plagued them earlier in the month appear to have been fixed at this point.
Injury Notes: Mack Crowder did not participate today and Vic Wharton, Aaron Medley and Woody Quinn were all seen in ‘The Hole’ during practice.
Here is the link to today’s Defensive Notes and Observations.