Some notes and observations from the open portion of practice about the defensive side of the ball from the indoor practice facility, as the Vols practiced inside for the second straight day due to heavy rain in Knoxville…
Injury update: DT Owen Williams continues to practice in a non-contact jersey with a cast that covers his left thumb, which he had a minor procedure on last week. Butch Jones remains optimistic that Williams could have the cast off and will play this weekend at Ole Miss, though he still wasn’t completely full-go today. LB Gavin Bryant was held out of practice and worked with the trainers. Still no sign of DE Joe Henderson, who was pulled from the practice field lat week due to NCAA academic issues.
Kickoff work: The team got a few semi-live kickoff and kickoff return reps. True freshman Evan Berry was the first-team kickoff returner with receiver Johnathon Johnson playing the role of the upback that Justus Pickett had been filling previously. They weren’t tackling all the way to the ground, but Berry got a chance to return one with the scout-team running full speed at him and he took it from the 1-yard line out to about his own 30 to 35 before defenders got a hand on him. Since it wasn’t truly live, it’s difficult to exactly where he would’ve been brought down. Geraldo Orta was credited with the stop and Jones was unhappy with the blocking, demanding over the microphone to know who was supposed to block him. The starting kickoff return team continues to have a strong freshman flavor with Berry, LB Jakob Johnson and TE Ethan Wolf among the first-year players on the squad.
Kickoff coverage was a mixed bag for the first and second team. Practicing in the indoor facility, the kicks often hit the roof, so it’s hard to get a completely realistic look. An assistant will toss the returners a ball when that happens, but it often throws the timing off of the play. Jones was unhappy with at least one of the reps, screaming “no accountability” as the team ran back.
Simulating the landsharks: It’ll be a tough job to replicate the Ole Miss defensive line this week on the scout team, but somebody has to do it. DT Michael Sawyers is wearing No. 95 to simulate Ole Miss DT Bryon Bennett, DE Jaylen Miller is wearing No. 90 to simulate Ole Miss DE Fadol Brown and DT Charles Fogler, a walk-on, is wearing No. 5 to simulate Ole Miss DT Robert Nkemdiche.