Some notes and observations from a the open portion of Tennessee’s practice on Tuesday afternoon as the Vols returned to Haslam Practice Field in full pads to continue their preparation for Arkansas State:
Depth chart notes: We didn’t see any full sets, but all eyes were on the offensive line after the news that starting left tackle Jacob Gilliam is out for the season with a torn ACL. As mostly expected, redshirt freshman Brett Kendrick was getting first-team reps, at least in individual drills, at that left tackle position. The rest of the line looked in tact with Jackson, Crowder, Robertson and Kerbyson making up the rest of the line from left to red.
Drills: The offensive line went through several drills, but it was notable that they were spending plenty of time working on their pass-blocking schemes after Utah State got to Justin Worley a couple times on Sunday. Running backs Marlin Lane and Jalen Hurd were both involved in that drill as well.
The quarterbacks and receiver worked on several routes and had a couple nice completions on some deeper passes – something the Vols will continue to work on. There were a few drops and receivers coach Zach Azzanni was quick to remind anybody who let the ball hit the ground that they have plenty of receivers now and he’ll be glad to take anybody off the field who can’t hold onto the ball.
Injury notes: RB Derrell Scott did not participate in practice. WR Jason Croom practiced in a green, non-contact jersey. TE Woody Quinn was back in drills after missing most of camp. WR Johnathon Johnson was back at least at some of the open portion after missing most of last year.
It was mostly special teams work during the portions of practice made open to the media on Tuesday. The Vols went to work early on correcting what Butch Jones termed as an “exceptionally disappointing” performance in that area during Sunday’s game against Utah State.
During special teams work, which was mostly focused on the kickoff return units, A.J. Johnson spent his time working with the quarterbacks on the defensive field. Clearly motivated by his first career interception and near-miss of his second against Utah State, Johnson worked on his hands while quarterbacks made throws as offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Mike Bajakian launched pads at their head and feet.
Drills: The defensive backs worked on proper stance and backpedaling technique with coach Willie Martinez. Martinez stated emphatically to his cornerbacks that they have to remain low in their backpedal to maintain balance and avoid being caught flat-footed after freshman corner Emmanuel Moseley nearly fell over coming out of his backpedal. Moseley seems to have hit a bit of a ‘freshman wall’ after a very strong spring and early portion of camp.
Special teams: The punters (minus Matt Darr, who was absent from practice) worked exclusively on their punt release time on Tuesday. Butch Jones has made it a point of emphasis that his punters be able to catch the ball and get the punt away in two seconds or less every time to reduce the chances of a block. Troy Waites, Trevor Daniel and Ryan Ault handled the punting duties today and although most punts were kicked under the two-second limit, there were a few that lingered long and drew the ire of Jones and the graduate assistant that was assisting with the drill.
Injury notes: Rashaan Gaulden was seen at practice with a cast on his right arm on Tuesday and did not participate in any drills. Travarris Saulsberry attended practice but stayed on the sidelines as it appears he still has some time before he is expected to see the field again. And, as we mentioned earlier, Matt Darr was absent from practice today after suffering a nasty looking rolled ankle late in Sunday’s game.