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Defensive Practice Notes: 4/4

Shy Tuttle-1Some notes and observations from the defensive side of the ball during the open portion of Saturday’s practice, which was held at Neyland Stadium.

For the first time this spring, we got to see some live scrimmage action as the Vols worked inside Neyland Stadium on an early Saturday afternoon. Per UT rules, we can’t report on formations or schematic things, but it did give us an opportunity to see where some guys are working and get a feel for how guys are looking as spring practice heads towards its midpoint.

Evan Berry stands out: We’ve said that this spring is a big opportunity for Evan Berry in terms of taking that next step on defense, and he appeared to take advantage of his opportunity on Saturday. Working with the second-team defense, Berry had a monster hit that blew up a short pass to Johnathon Johnson, causing the whole defensive sideline to erupt.

He followed that up with a nice leaping interception of Quinten Dormady on the next play that ended the second-team offense’s drive.

Mixed results from the defense: Big picture, it was an up-and-down performance for the defense in the four drives (each started from the 50) that were open to the media.

– The starting offense largely ran it down the starting defense’s throat on the first drive, highlighted by a big run from Alvin Kamara (see offensive notes for more). The defense stiffened up near the goal line, but on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1, the right side of the defensive line got washed down and Kamara was able to stick it in for a touchdown.

– Berry’s interception highlighted an impressive stretch for the second-team defense on the next drive.

– The first-team defense responded on its second opportunity. Malik Foreman had great coverage on Pig Howard on a deep pass attempt down the sideline from Joshua Dobbs, forcing the incompletion. Jalen-Reeves Maybin stepped up and made a big tackle as well, forcing a relatively quick three-and-out.

– The second-team defense gave up a couple first downs on its second drive, but was able to get a stop, forcing Aaron Medley to attempt a field goal of approximately 40 yards, which he made.

Lineup notes: LaTroy Lewis, Kendal Vickers, Shy Tuttle and Dimarya Mixon worked with the starting defensive line, while Chris Weatherd got a few reps with the 1s at defensive end as well. Kenny Bynum got the start at inside linebacker. Rashaan Gaulden was up first at nickel. LaDarrell McNeil got the nod over Todd Kelly Jr. at safety with the first unit.

There was some mixing and matching on the second unit, and cornerback is especially thin after the first group goes. Former safety Max Arnold is working at corner and walk-on Devin Williams was also working with the 2s at CB.

Dillon Bates (shoulder), who is limited this spring, did not participate any in the open portion.

3rd Down for What?: It’s back, at least it was in this scrimmage setting. The remix of the Lil Jon song was blaring in Neyland Stadium on third-down situations.

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