The Vols returned to the practice field today for the first time since their loss to Oklahoma as they officially began their preparations for the Georgia Bulldogs. The scout team donned the red jerseys and the Vols began the afternoon with some hitting as the focus now shifts to the start of SEC play in an eastern division that looks as wide open as it has in recent years.
The media were given four periods of practice today, here are some observations from the defensive field:
Special guests: Dave Serrano and the Tennessee baseball team took in the action today and were treating to a circle of life drill at the beginning of practice. Serrano and his guys were standing off to the side until Butch Jones came over the microphone and told them to join his team on Haslam Field. In what was a cool moment, Serrano led his players onto the field with this message, “Guys, let’s run out there. They (the football team) don’t walk on their practice field and we aren’t going to walk on it either.” It was just a really neat example of the mutual respect that Serrano and Jones have for each other. I would be willing to bet that few coaches across the country would have done what Serrano did today.
Drills: After bouncing around some last week between linebacker drills and defensive line drills, during today’s open portion of practice Curt Maggitt spent all of his time with the defensive linemen as they looked to be working on run fits and pass rushing techniques. Jordan Williams continues to spend the early portions of practice with the specialists working as a long snapper for field goal attempts.
The Vols also welcomed back Trevarris Saulsberry to the practice field today for the first time in over a month. The defensive tackle injured his knee during Tennessee’s open practice in August and had been unable to return to the practice field until today. The Vols will certainly welcome back their biggest defensive tackle as they prepare to face the one of the best running backs in the country in Georgia’s Todd Gurley.
The linebackers also worked on filling gaps and flying to the football in preparation for Georgia’s run-centered offensive attack. Jalen Reeves-Maybin and A.J. Johnson have been a very solid duo at linebacker for Tennessee through three games and will need to continue their strong play if the Vols are to have any real chance of containing Georgia’s run-game next weekend.
The defensive backs worked on various techniques and principles related to assisting the defensive line and linebackers in run support today. As you saw against Oklahoma the Vols often walked down an extra safety in run support and left the corners out to defend the Sooner receivers one-on-one. I would expect to see a similar look from Tennessee against Georgia; who features a better stable of running backs than Oklahoma but not near the talent at quarterback or receiver.
Injury update: I hesitate to even type this, but the Vols look to be a pretty healthy team on the defensive side of the football heading into the bye week (knocks on wood). Geraldo Orta was in a green no-contact jersey for today’s practice, but other than that it appeared that everybody was a full-go outside of the normal bumps and bruises that come with playing football.
Here’s the link to today’s Offensive Notes and Observations.