It was another brutally hot day on Haslam Field as the Vols went through their final practice of the week before taking the weekend off. Butch Jones was as intense as he’s been all summer today and it began during stretching when he told his team that they had to, “Earn the right to run through the T.”
We were allowed to view five periods of practice today as the Vols continue to tighten up their game plan for Utah State. Here are the notes from the offensive side of the football.
Special teams: During punt fielding drills Devrin Young was the first guy in line and it looks like he has a firm grip on that position as we head into game week. Cam Sutton, Pig Howard and Emmanuel Moseley were also back there getting some work in as well. For a position that was hit pretty hard by injuries last year, the Vols are entering the 2014 season with plenty of options in the return game.
Eleven on eleven: We were able to see the team go through some late game situational scrimmage work today. The starting lineup for the Vol offense was as follows:
LT: Jacob Gilliam
LG: Marcus Jackson
C: Mack Crowder
RG: Jashon Robertson
RT: Coleman Thomas
QB: Justin Worley
RB: Marlin Lane
TE: Alex Ellis
WR: Pig Howard, Von Pearson, Marquez North.
The first team offense struggled during the early portion of the scrimmage work as Worley threw an incomplete pass to Pig Howard and was then sacked by Corey Vereen. The offense then struggled to get a play called correctly and Butch Jones sent both teams back to the huddle and lit into center Mack Crowder for not having the desired level of intensity for the end-of-game scenario.
The offense followed that series with two incompletions and a sack that put them in a fourth down and long situation with time running out. Worley dropped back, evaded the rush, and hit Von Pearson over the middle for a 45-yard “game-tying” touchdown. Pearson was able to beat Justin Coleman for the catch but the bust was on Devaun Swafford who lost leverage over the top and allowed Von to go untouched for the score.
The second team offense also had their fair share of struggles during the scrimmage as well. Nathan Peterman opened with an outstanding throw to Jason Croom where Peterman released the ball before Croom was even out of his break – it was probably the best throw of camp. As good as that throw was, however, it was all downhill from there. After a completion from Peterman to Josh Malone the offense had back to back illegal procedure penalties that each resulted in a ten second runoff on the game clock. The second penalty was called against Malone and Butch Jones took the opportunity to call out his freshman wide out. “You don’t get it Malone,” Jones screamed. “That’s why you’re third string.”
Butch then called the entire team into the center of the field for a paint peeling teaching moment.
He preached to his team that the mistakes on both sides of the ball had absolutely nothing to do with athletic ability and everything to do with maturity and discipline, and he was right. This team isn’t good enough yet to overcome mistakes, and especially ones that occur during critical late game situations. Butch was clearly frustrated, but actually did a really good job of explaining the situation to his team in a clear and decisive manor instead of just laying into them for 10 minutes. That’s not to say his speech was all kittens and rainbows – because it wasn’t – but it was informative, stern and slightly motivational at the same time.
Injuries: The usual suspects were again absent from practice as Vic Wharton, Johnathon Johnson, Derrell Scott and Woody Quinn all missed another day. Wharton participated in practice yesterday, but Zach Azzanni said he suffered a pulled muscle in his leg. The injury his not believed to be serious and he could play against Utah State. We’ll keep an eye on him. Kyler Kerbyson was absent from practice today due to a death in the family.
Here’s the link to today’s Defensive Notes and Observations.