Some notes and observations from the open portion of practice from the defensive side of the ball as the Vols continued to work on their bye week…
Normal squad returns: After fielding more of a developmental squad during the open portion of practice on Tuesday, the full squad returned on Wednesday with the starters and reserves all working together. Ball disruption was one of the first things they worked on with a lot of the scholarship guys getting a chance to hit walk-ons and then try to knock the ball out. Corey Vereen and Owen Williams were among the guys who had particularly big hits in that drill.
Gaulden stepping up?: We’ve identified Rashaan Gaulden as somebody the Vols might look to get more reps going forward with the secondary struggling the last couple of weeks. Based on Wednesday’s practice, it appears that Gaulden is at least getting some consideration for more playing time. He wasn’t working with the starters at nickelback, that spot still belonged to Justin Coleman, but secondary coach Willie Martinez seemed to be paying extra attention to Gaulden, giving him personalized help when he was getting reps and pointing out things to him when he wasn’t. It’s fair to say that Gaulden, who is playing with a cast on his hand, will have a chance at some significant reps going forward if he responds in practice.
Other secondary thoughts: Just based on the individual drills we saw, it seems that the starting five remains Justin Coleman, Cam Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley, LaDarrell McNeil and Brian Randolph at this point. Communication seemed to be one of the main focuses of practice today, as the DBs repped various coverages and worked on talking to each other as the play developed.
Injury notes: Evan Berry, who got some work as a second-team safety in drills, was the only one in a green, non-contact uniform on the defensive side of the ball. It appeared that DT Trevarris Saulsberry wasn’t there during the open portion, though with the defensive line working on the far side of the field, it can be hard to tell sometimes.
Here’s the link to today’s Offensive Notes and Observations.