It was a shorter open portion of practice on Thursday afternoon, but here are a few position-by-position thoughts.
Defensive line: The focus was on agility and footwork for the defensive line. That’s going to be especially important this spring for players like Charles Mosley and Shy Tuttle – extremely big bodies that need to work on that part of the game if they’re going to be contributors on the defensive line.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Andrew Butcher is a defensive end that really moves well right now and seemed to excel in some of those drills.
Linebackers: Reading and reacting were the keys Tommy Thigpen was emphasizing in practice today. And like the rest of the defense, ball disruption was also a focus, as all the position groups worked on forcing fumbles and scooping up the loose ball.
Just a few observations as we get a feel for what the roster looks like this spring: Gavin Bryant has clearly put on a little bit of weight over the offseason as he looks to get in that conversation at middle linebacker. Elliott Berry and Cortez McDowell are a couple other guys to keep an eye at outside linebacker. Both look stronger and could be in that conversation to help on special teams and get in the rotation at outside linebacker.
Secondary: The secondary worked on backpedaling and other fundamentals, while also doing some ball disruption drills as well.
Stephen Griffin really looks the part at safety. He’s one of the tallest players out there with a good wingspan. He’s a guy to keep an eye on as the Vols will be looking to potentially replace both starting safeties after the 2015 season.
– Jauan Jennings, Patrick Ashford and Quinten Dormady were all getting work at holder
– Guys working at punt returner were: Cam Sutton, Von Pearson, Pig Howard, Emmanuel Moseley, Alvin Kamara, Johnathon Johnson
– Guys working at kick returner were: Evan Berry, Malik Foreman, Josh Smith and Marquez North