Defensive Notes and Observations: 9/23

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    It was a short stint for the viewing media today as Tennessee has officially entered into game week preparations for the Georgia Bulldogs. Based on our brief time at practice today, it is safe to say that this team is emotionally geared up to try and avenge last year’s overtime loss to the dogs. There was a lot of energy throughout the practice field and the players appeared to be very focused and dialed in to the task at hand – no doubt one of the benefits of the bye week.

    Here are the notes from the defensive field:

    Linebackers: During the lone open portion of individual drills the linebackers spent their time working on tackling form and driving their feet through the ball carrier (a must when the ball carrier is UGA’s Todd Gurley). Jalen Reeves-Maybin and A.J. Johnson led the team through drills and were both very talkative. Johnson grew up not too far from Athens, Georgia and Reeves-Maybin burst onto the college football scene with his blocked punt against UGA last year, so there appeared to be an added level of excitement and energy coming from those two today. The LBs also went through some catching and deflection drills, perhaps in the hope that the defensive line can get their hands on a few Hutson Mason passes this weekend.

    Defensive line: Not a ton to report from this group, but they did spend some time working with the offensive linemen in one-on-one pass-rushing situations. There was a lot more time spent teaching during this portion of practice as opposed to actual drill reps, but Dewayne Hendrix did have one very nice rep against Kyler Kerbyson where he was able to get the offensive tackle off balance before using a swim move to get by him and explode to the quarterback. Hendrix is a guy that the coaches are waiting on to take that ‘next step’ and he appeared to be playing with a lot of confidence today.

    Also, Trevarris Saulsberry looks to be very close to 100-percent as far as his knee is concerned. Saulsberry moved very well during the linemen drills and showed no ill-effects from the knee injury that sidelined him for the first three games. If there was ever a game when the Vols needed the interior of their defensive line to be a their healthiest, it would have to be this weekend against Georgia’s stellar ground attack. The addition of Saulsberry could play a huge role in the success of UGA’s rushing game and, ultimately, the outcome of this game.

    Secondary: The safeties worked on keeping their eyes fixed on the quarterback and reacting accordingly based on the position of the football. In watching this drill, Todd Kelly Jr. and Brian Randolph really stood out above the rest in terms of their movement. Both of these guys are just extremely fast to react and move very smoothly when they do. I don’t know what the plan will be with the safety position this week based on Georgia’s propensity to run the football, but Todd Kelly Jr. is clearly showing why he is such a highly touted recruit coming out of high school as he really continues to impress on the practice field.

    The cornerbacks spent all of their time – that we could see – working on one-on-one coverage against the scout team receivers as they ran various routes –  fades, slants, curls, stops…etc. Cam Sutton continues to look like an All SEC caliber player with his work ethic and attention to detail during practice.

    Injury notes: Elliott Berry and Geraldo Orta were seen in green no contact jerseys while everyone else appeared to be a full-go for practice today.