Wednesday marked the final open practice of the week for Tennessee as they head into this weekend’s game against Kentucky at 4:00pm in Neyland Stadium. The weather cooperated a little bit this afternoon and gave the Vols a taste of what they can expect to face during the game. The temperature at kickoff against the Wildcats is expected to be somewhere in the mid-40’s, and today’s temperature at the start of practice was 44 degrees with .
There wasn’t a lot to see today, as the media were only given two periods of practice to view, but here are the noteworthy items from what we could see:
Wet ball drill: The quarterbacks and centers began practice by working with coach Bajakian on snapping, securing and throwing a wet football out of the shotgun and from under center. Bajakian would stand over the center with a water bottle and soak the ball as the quarterback went through the cadence. Even with Bajakian getting a little carried away a time or two and being very liberal with his spray technique, there didn’t appear to be any issues with any of the quarterbacks securing the snap or delivering the football.
The drill seems a bit out of place, as there is no rain in the forecast for Saturday, but clearly the coach wanted his quarterbacks to prepare for gripping and throwing a ball in less-than-ideal conditions.
Drill work: The running backs and wide receivers that aren’t on special teams units did fundamental and technique drills on the sidelines during the ‘specialists’ portion of practice. This included catching some balls from the JUGS machine and working on proper footwork on various routes. The receivers and tight ends then joined the quarterbacks for the second period of practice and worked on some timing routes against air. The quarterbacks were particularly sharp during this portion of practice and tight end Alex Ellis made the play of the day when he made a one-handed snag of a seam pass from Joshua Dobbs.
Injury notes: As was the case yesterday, Marquez North, Marlin Lane and Jalen Hurd were all wearing green, non-contact jerseys for today’s practice. All players participated in all of the drills we were able to see and showed no effects from their injuries.
Turnover drills: The defense did multiple drills to work on forcing turnovers – something that will be critical against Kentucky on Saturday. That’s one area that the Wildcats have a pretty noticeable edge on the Vols in, with Kentucky coming in third in the SEC in turnover margin (+8) on the year and the Vols sitting at even.
DBs coach Willie Martinez ran his group through something he called the “bad ball” drill, where he would throw a wounded duck of a throw that was often high or low and the defensive backs would try to make the interception. The linebackers worked on scooping up fumbles as well. The defensive backs even went as far as to do a drill where one of them would go air-born and try to bat the ball back onto the field of play to a teammate for an interception.
TK and Weatherd get an earful: Safety Todd Kelly Jr. is one of the players that Butch Jones and the coaches have been wanting more. Jones was all over him during one special teams drill, yelling at him for committing multiple penalties on one rep and then reminding him that he’s not blocking Knoxville Catholic anymore.
Linebacker Chris Weatherd, another player the coaches are pushing for more on both special teams and defense, also heard from Jones over the microphone as he told him he had a “lazy” rep on special teams and had “poor body position.”
Injury notes: Defensive end Dewayne Hendrix was back in a normal practice jersey after wearing a non-contact one yesterday. Trevarris Saulsberry, who has been ruled out for this weekend, wasn’t in uniform, but was getting some light running in around the practice field with a brace on his knee. There’s no timetable on his return yet, but it seems feasible that it could be this year if he’s back to jogging again.