Some notes and observations from the defensive side of the ball as the Vols took to Haslam Field for their thirteenth practice of the spring.
Williams in, Mosley out: Outside of Peyton Manning being in town for the Orange and White Game this weekend, the biggest news of the day has to be the Volunteer defensive line’s change in appearance. Defensive tackle Owen Williams worked out with the rest of the defensive line for the first time this spring, while now-former defensive tackle “Big” Charles Mosley appears to have officially made the switch to the offensive line as the Vols enter the final week of spring practice.
Williams wore a green jersey throughout practice, so his participation was limited, but apparently the coaches feel good enough about his progress as of late to put him on the field for the final week of camp. While it just seemed like a matter of time until the coaches sent Mosley over to Don Mahoney, making the move this late in the spring came as a bit of a surprise, especially considering Mosley’s recent progress.
Griffin improving: True freshman safety Stephen Griffin got some personal attention from defensive coordinator John Jancek during the start of today’s practice. Jancek was working with a few of the safeties on shedding blocks and proper tackling technique, but decided to spend some extra time “coaching up” Griffin, giving him a few extra reps to refine his technique. Griffin drew quite a bit of praise from Jancek for his performance, and rightfully so. Griffin has impressed onlookers all spring with his athleticism, but his ability to learn things quickly and improve every day hasn’t gone unnoticed. While his role this season isn’t expected to be as significant due to depth and experience at the position, it appears that the Vols may have gotten a steal in the 3-star safety from Charlotte.
Working wounded: While the rest of the defense worked with their position groups, John Jancek put his injured players through some play recognition drills on the defensive field during the final two open periods of the day. Rashaan Gaulden (fresh off of his wrist surgery), Danny O’Brien, Darrin Kirkland Jr., Kyle Phillips, Trevarris Saulsberry, Derek Barnett, Jakob Johnson and Corey Vereen – all wearing shorts and t-shirts – worked with Jancek as he walked them through various techniques and play recognition work. We didn’t get to see much of these players during the first two weeks of spring practice, but they have been a much more common feature of the practice field over the last ten days or so. Curt Maggitt normally works with this group during practices as well, but we’re told that Maggitt had academic obligations to attend to this evening and was forced to miss practice.
Injury notes: Safety LaDarrell McNeil and linebacker Dillon Bates were absent from practice during the six open periods afforded to the media this afternoon. Brian Randolph was back with the team today and was a full participant based on what we could see. Devaun Swafford practiced, but wore a green, no-contact jersey.