Some notes and observations from the defensive side of the ball as the Vols held three periods of open practice Wednesday afternoon. The Vols worked in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets at Haslam Field.
Injury update: DB Geraldo Orta and LB Elliott Berry continued to work in green, non-contact jerseys. DT Trevarris Saulsberry (knee) continues to get full-speed reps and looks set to make his season debut against Georgia on Saturday after being injured in the open practice at Neyland Stadium in mid-August.
Active A.J.: As he’s done several times this year in practice, A.J. Johnson spent the portions of practice that were dedicated to special teams units he’s not on (such as punt coverage and kickoff return) working with various position groups. He spent some time with the defensive backs working on his hands as the JUGS machine fired passes at them to try to intercept. He worked with the quarterbacks and tight ends as well, catching passes out in the flat. He even jumped in with the running backs, doing some strength and agility drills. Don’t expect him to line up at any of those positions any time soon, but it’s always interesting to see him get that extra work in.
Butch on the mic: Speaking of A.J. Johnson, he’s one of Butch Jones’ favorite targets when he’s on the microphone. He’s been comparing him to Georgia linebacker Ramik Wilson this week, and on Wednesday he told Johnson that he should watch cut-ups of Wilson play to help him learn how to play linebacker. Johnson then dropped a ball immediately after Jones said that and, of course, Jones then made a comment insinuating that Wilson would be better at that drill than him.
Defensive drills: The defensive linemen spent much of the open portion working on technique – specifically getting off of blocks and reading the steps of the offensive linemen. That will obviously take on extra significance this week as they try to contain Georgia’s impressive group of healthy running backs that includes Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
The defensive backs worked primarily on pulling down interceptions and were forced to do push-ups when they dropped one.