It was a cold and drizzly practice for Tennessee on Wednesday night at Haslam Field. The practice field was a bit more crowded today, however, as the starters were back out with the rest of their teammates after Butch jones gave them Tuesday to recover from Saturday’s overtime win over South Carolina.
The media were given five open periods of practice today, so we were able to see a little bit more than a usual game week practice. Here are some observations from the offensive practice field:
Offensive Line: It was a heavy technique day for coach Mahoney’s group as they worked on hand/feet placement, proper steps, cut blocks and leg drive. Coleman Thomas looked to be moving well as he works his way back from an ankle sprain suffered against Ole Miss. The bye week hitting when it did is good for Thomas, who now looks like he has a real shot at being ready to play some snaps against Kentucky in two weeks.
Brett Kendrick caught some criticism from Butch Jones as he went through a cut-block rep during the second period of practice. Jones was apparently unsatisfied with Kendrick’s effort and let the redshirt freshman hear about it. “Hit the pad Kendrick! Hit the pad!” Jones yelled. “You’re soft…Pretend there’s a cupcake behind the (blocking) pad, Kendrick. Go get the cupcake. And stay low, we don’t cut block people at their shoulders.” Jones then proceeded to call Kendrick ‘cupcake’ for the remainder of practice.
Receivers/Tight Ends: Mostly a fundamental day for this group based on what we saw. The tight ends worked on their short release routes in the passing game and the receivers worked with coach Azzanni on breaking press coverage and proper footwork while blocking. The receivers would later join the quarterbacks for some skeleton work and really caught the ball well despite the damp conditions.
Running backs: It was all basics for this group today as coach Gillespie had his guys work exclusively on blocking and protecting the football as other players tried to strip it. In somewhat of a surprise appearance, Marlin Lane was back out with the running backs today after going down with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter against South Carolina. Lane was actually carted back to the locker room after his injury, which makes today’s appearance at practice even more impressive. He was still somewhat limited from an explosion standpoint, but he did participate in all of the various drills with his teammates. If Tennessee had a game this weekend I wouldn’t expect Lane to be able to play, but he is looks like he has a real shot at being ready in two weeks.
Quarterbacks: The quarterbacks got some work in a pass skeleton drill and performed well. I charted Joshua Dobbs at 10-of-13 with one drop by Jason Croom, an overthrow along the sidelines and an underthrow over the middle. Not to beat it into the ground, but Dobbs really has come a long way since August. During fall camp there were times where he would complete roughly 50-percent of his throws against air and some of the incompletions weren’t even close. He now has a much better command of the football and improved arm strength as well. I fully expect him to get better and better with each week of reps and preparation as the starting quarterback.
Injury notes: This team appears fairly healthy – albeit exhausted – after six straight weeks of games. The only notable absence from practice today was Marquez North, who was likely receiving treatment on the shoulder he injured against South Carolina. I wouldn’t read too much into North’s absence today, but we will be sure to get as much information on his injury as we can.
Here’s the link to today’s Defensive Notes and Observations.