Some notes and observations from the defensive side of the ball during the open portion of Thursday’s practice. The Vols were in just shorts, jerseys and helmets as they took it relatively easy with the Orange and White Game coming in just a few days.
Injuries/absences: DB Devaun Swafford was wearing a green, non-contact jersey. Safe to list him as questionable for the Orange and White Game on Saturday. DBs Rashaan Gaulden and LaDarrell McNeil were held out of practice. DBs Todd Kelly Jr. and Max Arnold weren’t in attendance.
LB Dillon Bates was back at practice after not being there during the open portion on Tuesday. DT Owen Williams was back in a standard practice jersey after being in green earlier in the week.
Thin at defensive back: We’ve discussed lack of depth on the defensive line a lot this fall, but defensive back is a position that could be thin on Saturday as well. McNeil may not go, Gaulden is out and they probably won’t won’t to overdo it with Randolph or Sutton since they know what they can get from them, so that should leave a ton of reps for the likes of Malik Foreman, Emmanuel Moseley, Evan Berry and Stephen Griffin. We also haven’t seen Lemond Johnson in a few practices, but haven’t gotten any official word on him at this point.
Defensive line drills notes: The defensive line worked on their take-offs in a drill where they had to get off the ball and run in an arc while racing against a fellow defensive linemen going right beside him. The numerous injured players on the defensive line got a chance to jump in on that drill, and, not surprisingly, Derek Barnett was one of the most impressive players. Andrew Butcher and Shy Tuttle were a couple of the others who really moved quickly as well.
Kickoff return notes: Evan Berry and Von Pearson both had really good reps returning kickoffs. It’s hard to say how far they would’ve gone since it wasn’t a full-contact drill, but both easily got into the open field and looked like they would’ve had nice returns. Pearson, however, did muff his next opportunity, leaving the ball dangerously bouncing around before he scooped it up and took off with it. We’ve also seen Alvin Kamara, Josh Malone and Malik Foreman get reps at kickoff return this spring.