Some notes and observations from the offensive side of the ball at the open portion of Tuesday evening’s practice:
The Vols took to Haslam Field for three open periods of practice on Tuesday night. After starting with another round of ‘Circle of Life’ battles – more on that in the defensive notes – it was on to special teams and passing game work for the majority of the skill players.
Cam Sutton, Von Pearson, Pig Howard, and Josh Malone all took their turn fielding punts with towels under their arms and tennis balls in their hands to ‘up’ the level of difficulty. There were a few mishandles here and there, but it was mostly a solid afternoon from this group, especially Sutton. He’s been mentioned frequently by his coaches and teammates since fall practice began, but Cam Sutton is just on another level of professionalism and focus when he hits the practice field. He told us last week that he intends on returning punts for the Vols in 2015, and his focus and consistency during drills this afternoon make him a tough man to bet against.
During the passing portion of the practice, I thought that all of the quarterbacks really looked solid. Quinten Dormady continues to impress with his tight delivery and arm strength, while Jauan Jennings looked like he really took a step forward with his command of the football and confidence while making his throws when compared to when I watched him last week. Jennings still has a way to go, but is already showing improvement. The quarterbacks threw mostly deep routes down the boundary and up the seam, so not the most difficult of throws to make, but Jennings had a really nice trajectory on his passes and certainly throws a catchable ball when he can get his feet set and just let it fly.
But the star of the day was easily Joshua Dobbs. I know…I know, the hype-machine for him is already out of control, but what a difference a year makes. Last spring, and even into the early-summer, Dobbs struggled to complete even the simplest of passes with a high level of consistency. But by roughly the midway through last season, he sort of took the proverbial “next step” from an accuracy and consistency standpoint, and it has carried over into the start of spring ball. He was simply on the money today. He was hitting receivers down the boundary in stride with great zip and a nice, high trajectory that would make it very difficult for any defender to get a hand on. He looks like he has taken a step forward with his arm-strength and is really driving the ball down the sideline better than he did at any point last season – a testament to his dedication and effort in the weight room with strength coach Dave Lawson
Once they moved into the shorter throws in the red zone, Dobbs’ improved arm shined even more. Again, he was accurate, quick and consistent in his throws. All told, I’d say we saw Dobbs throw around 30-40 passes (during the open periods of practice), and all of them were exactly where they needed to be. Not to oversell it or state the obvious, but if he can continue to progress as he has, then Tennessee fans should be very excited about what this offense is capable of in 2015.