It was a very limited open portion of practice this evening as Tennessee continued their preparations for Saturday’s game in Columbia against South Carolina. The media were only given two periods of practice to view, and the majority of defensive players spent their time working with various special teams units during those periods. There were, however, a few minor notes that are worth mentioning:
Coleman’s improvement: Senior defensive back Justin Coleman took a lot of extra work and reps on his own this evening with a few graduate assistants. Coleman has been one of the most improved players on the defense over the last year and continues to put in the extra work to make sure he is ready to go. The switch from outside cornerback to the nickel position has really helped Coleman this year thanks to more favorable matchups, but he deserves a lot of the credit for taking coaching and working hard to put himself in a position to help this team.
Coleman has also been seen mentoring and helping out young cornerbacks like D’Andre Payne and Emmanuel Moseley all season long, and has really been one of the quiet leaders of Tennessee’s secondary. South Carolina’s offense features a lot of plays that are specifically designed to target the slot receiver, so this week may prove to be Coleman’s busiest of the season. Coleman was beaten badly on the first play of the second quarter during last year’s game against South Carolina for a 76-yard touchdown by receiver Damiere Byrd, so there is probably a little added motivation for Coleman to perform well this week.
Defensive line: Jordan Williams, Curt Maggitt and Derek Barnett led the defensive linemen – those who aren’t on special teams – through their usual set of early practice drills before the media exited practice. The defensive line came out of the Alabama game a little banged up along the interior, as Jordan Williams, Travarris Saulsberry and Owen Williams all went down at various times during the game. Owen Williams was seen at practice today as he worked with his special teams unit, while Trevarris Saulsberry was absent from practice.
Butch on the mic: Coach Jones lit into senior punter Matt Darr after a shanked punt during the special teams portion of practice, “Come on, Darr! Come on, Darr!” Butch said. “You get some media attention, get some love and you immediately revert back to the old Darr. Come on, Matt!”
For what it’s worth, Darr’s next punt appeared to travel 55+ yards in the air.
Injuries: Kick returner/defensive back Evan Berry was seen at today’s practice participating in a green, no-contact jersey but appeared to be moving around just fine. Outside of the absence of Travarris Saulsberry, who has been ruled out for Saturday’s game with a knee injury, this team appears to be heading into this weekend’s game relatively healthy.