After a two-day break, Tennessee returned to the practice field on a very warm Thursday afternoon at Haslam Field. Here are some notes and observations from the offensive side of the ball:
Depth chart: The offensive line was the only unit we got a good look at in terms of a depth chart. The starters remained:
LT Jacob Gilliam
LG Marcus Jackson
C Mack Crowder
RG Jashon Robertson
RT Kyler Kerbyson.
LT Dontavius Blair
LG Austin Sanders
C Dylan Wiesman
RG Brett Kendrick
RT Coleman Thomas
Scout team: Tennessee dressed many of its walk-ons and some scholarship players in blue jerseys to simulate what they will face against Utah State. Generally speaking, players on the scout team are not in the two-deep, so you can get some idea of where some people stand. These are a few notable offensive players who had on the blue jerseys: WR Jacob Carter, WR Drae Bowles, RB Treyvon Paulk, QB Mike Wegzyn, TE A.J. Branisel and OL Marques Pair.
Brick hands: The receivers had a hard time catching the ball in at least one drill. Josh Malone had a very bad drop that caused the coaches to make him do it over again. He dropped it again on the next one, but the coaches let that one slide. Marquez North also had a bad drop and Vic Wharton appeared to run the wrong route at one point, causing an incompletion. The quarterbacks had a pretty good day during the open drills, hitting most of their targets and completing virtually all of the passes that weren’t dropped.
Special teams: The field of returners seemed to shrink a touch with Wharton, Devrin Young, Marlin Lane, Treyvon Paulk and Jalen Hurd working at kick returner and Josh Malone, Cam Sutton and Jacob Carter working at punt returner.
Injury update: RB Derrell Scott, TE Woody Quinn and WR Johnathon Johnson all didn’t participate. Wharton was back on the field and looked full speed after missing a fairly significant chunk of camp.
Game week officially began and the team’s focus was squarely fixed on Utah State. All we were allowed to see today was drill work and a little bit of special teams work so there isn’t too much to report from the defensive side of the ball, but here are some notables from our allotted time:
Welcome back Curt: After roughly a week away from the practice field, Curt Maggitt was back out with the team on Thursday afternoon. Curt appeared to be full go and didn’t look limited in any way during the drill work we saw. The defensive end “rolled his ankle” earlier this month and missed the last week or so as he rehabbed it. There is just a different energy when #56 is on the field, not only along the line, but throughout the entire defense. Everyone just feeds off of his energy, so it was good to see him back out there today.
Ball placement: During special teams work the focus was on directional kicking and coverage. After one punt Butch Jones lit into Matt Darr for leaving the ball in the middle of the field when the coverage was set to the sideline. Darr responded by unleashing a demon of a kick that pinned Adrian Gamble against the sideline after traveling 45+ yards in the air. It was the ideal placement for a kick to achieve maximum distance with no threat of a return. Butch Jones let Darr know by yelling, “Great kick! Great Kick! Great Kick!” over the loudspeaker.
Scout team: Today marked the first day that some members of the team donned the jersey of the opposing team for scout work. Some notable defensive players that were seen in blue jerseys today: S Cortez McDowell, CB Rashaan Gaulden, DT Michael Sawyers, CB Riyahd Jones, S Evan Berry and DE Joe Henderson.
Injuries: Rashaan Gaulden was sporting a heavily taped ankle, but went through all of the drills and special teams work that the media were able to see. Travarris Saulsberry was off to the side of practice today in a knee brace but without crutches.