Team 118 took to Haslam Field this morning for their first practice of the day before holding the open practice this evening in Neyland Stadium. If the players were expecting their coaches to take it easy on them than they were extremely disappointed this morning. The coaches, and especially Butch Jones, were extremely intense as they tried to get this team focused before they do it in front of thousands fans tonight.
Here are some notes from the field:
O-Line Move: The offensive line continues to be a shifting unit. Today’s line featured Jacob Gilliam back at left tackle with Kyler Kerbyson occupying the right tackle spot. Marcus Jackson was at left guard and freshman Jashon Robertson was with the ones at right guard. Mack Crowder took the reps at center.
Evan Perry?: During special teams work, the returners all got in a bunch of catches fielding both kicks and punts. Evan Berry already looks much more confident in this role than he did when he first started getting work back there. Today he was seen playing air-guitar and singing along to Journey’s ‘Any Way You Want It’ while fielding punts. A stark difference from even a week ago when he struggled to field both kicks and punts and didn’t seem to have a lot of confidence.
Passing Game Improving: The quarterbacks did some work on avoiding pressure within the pocket while keeping their eyes downfield. It seems like all of the quarterbacks are throwing the ball with much more confidence since the announcement that Justin Worley would be the starter and I can’t help but think that that move has helped take some of the pressure off of that group. They were all extremely accurate and jut appeared to have more poise during the portion of work that we were able to see this morning.
The focus for Zach Azzanni and his receivers remains on the finer details of route running. He is meticulous when it comes to how his guys run routes, use their hands and get out of their breaks. He was coaching everyone this morning as Jason Croom, Von Pearson, Josh Malone and Marquez North were all overheard receiving some pointers during their session working with the quarterbacks.
Injuries: Sporting green no-contact jerseys this morning on offense were Derrell Scott, Justus Pickett and Devrin Young. Johnathon Johnson was seen sporting a fresh walking boot this morning and did not participate in practice. Johnson, along with Woody Quinn and Vic Wharton were without shoulder pads today and did all of their work in ‘the hole.’ Drae Bowles had a splint on one of his fingers as well, but it didn’t look to be bothering him too much.
A quick aside on Derrell Scott…This guy looks like he is going to be a very nice player here. He is still behind due to missing practice time with an injury and was a little banged up again today, but he has the look of a very good running back. He is well built and looks much bigger than I thought he would at this point. Really excited to watch him develop.
Depth chart notes: The most glaring change we saw as the defense went through walk-throughs and a few drills was walk-on Michael Williams working as the starting corner ahead of Emmanuel Moseley. Here’s a look at how the rest of the unofficial depth chart looked Saturday morning:
DE: Corey Vereen, Derek Barnett
DT: Danny O’Brien, Jordan Williams
LB: A.J. Johnson, Jalen Reeves-Maybin
CB: Cam Sutton, Michael Williams, (NB) Justin Coleman
S: Brian Randolph, Devaun Swafford
DE: LaTroy Lewis, Dewayne Hendrix
DT: Michael Sawyers, Trevarris Saulsberry
LB: (a lot of shuffling) Dillon Bates, Gavin Bryant, Colton Jumper, Chris Weatherd & Elliott Berry all got work
CB: Emmanuel Moseley, D’Andre Payne, (NB) Malik Foreman
S: Todd Kelly Jr., LaDarrell McNeil
Jones works with D: Butch Jones generally spends most of his time on the offensive field, but he was very involved with the defense on Saturday morning – helping coach and, of course, “motivate” the players as well. Kenny Bynum got an earful at one point for being at the back of the line in a drill. Jones also started practice off with the Swiperboy “Eric Berry” song and, as usual, reminded Evan and Elliott Berry that they still have a long way to go to be like their older brother.
Injuries: Contrary to what Jones predicted on Friday, Curt Maggitt did not practice Saturday morning. DT Dimarya Mixon, DB Geraldo Orta and DE Jaylen Miller were not in pads and spent most of their time in “The Hole.” Don’t expect any of them to play during the open practice Saturday night.