Some notes and observations from the defensive side of the ball at Thursday’s spring practice.
It was a hectic day on Haslam Field on Thursday, with players divided up and scattered across both practice fields and some of the additional areas off to the side. This made tracking position groups and accounting for players a bit more difficult than normal, but here are a few notes from the defensive side of the ball.
All of the injured defensive linemen and linebackers were on the practice field today in t-shirts, shorts and helmets going through drills and blitz looks with the rest of the defense. After a brief period spent working on a variety of blitzes with the first and second team offenses, defensive coordinator John Jancek took his M.A.S.H. unit of Derek Barnett, Curt Maggitt, Danny O’Brien, Kyle Phillips, Darrin Kirkland Jr. and Jakob Johnson off to the side for a teaching session that involved a lot of time spent working on alignment and fundamentals.
The rest of the defensive line split off to work with Steve Stripling on the blocking sleds. (This takes place approximately 12 miles away from where the media is allowed to stand, so, not a lot to report.)
Skeleton: Butch Jones then put his team through a few series of third down passing scenarios in a seven-on-seven setting. Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Kenny Bynum were the starting linebackers, while Cam Sutton, Malik Foreman and Emmanuel Moseley made up the first team cornerbacks. With LaDarrell McNeil and Brian Randolph surprisingly absent from today’s practice – hopefully more on that after practice – Evan Berry and Todd Kelly Jr. got the ‘start’ at the safety spots.
I’d give the defense mixed reviews on their four-play scrimmage. The offense converted the first play (a 3rd-and-12) on a pass to Jalen Hurd who was, cleverly, split out wide on the play at a receiver position. I dare say that there won’t be too many teams in the country who will be able to defend Jalen Hurd if the Vols choose to use him out wide with any level of consistency. The defense would force incompletions on the next two attempts, but a holding penalty on Kenny Bynum during the final rep gave each side of the ball two “wins” apiece.
The second team defense – a veritable who’s who of walk-ons and players outside the projected (healthy) two-deep – gave up three first downs on four plays against the second team offense, including a nice pass-and-catch from Quinten Dormady to Joe Stocstill against a defending Colton Jumper.
Injury notes: As mentioned above, LaDarrell McNeil and Brian Randolph were not seen during the five open periods of practice. Rashaan Gaulden was also absent. Defensive back coach Willie Martinez said it was due to injury, but didn’t go into detail other than to say that he would be “limited” for the rest of spring practice.