Some notes and observations from the offensive side of the ball from the open portion of Thursday’s practice.
Team 119 went through their final practice of the spring on Thursday ahead of Saturday’s Orange and White “Event” in Neyland Stadium at 4:00pm. It was a fundamental and technique-driven practice with the team working out in only shorts, helmets and jerseys with no pads of any kind. There wasn’t a ton of action today, but here are some noteworthy items from a light day’s work for the Vols.
Red zone work: The quarterbacks, receivers and tight ends got started with some “high-point fades” from the 15-yard line. The action is fast in this setting, with two quarterbacks throwing at the same time to opposite end zones and rotating quickly, but it’s safe to say that the quarterbacks all had a nice set of reps. Joshua Dobbs continues to impress with his consistency and ball placement, while Quinten Dormady makes the difficult throws look effortless with his strong arm and smooth delivery. And while Jauan Jennings may not quite be on the level of either Dobbs or Jennings, he has improved a ton since spring practice began and – at least in the immediate future – should be considered as nothing other than a quarterback. Now, that may change by the time fall camp rolls around, but, for now, it appears that the coaches feel like he has has some tools that they can work with.
Kick return: Butch Jones had his team run through a couple of kick return scenarios during the third period of practice. Obviously, without pads this was far from a full-contact drill, but that didn’t stop Jones from calling out his team for a lack of physicality after the first rep. Von Pearson drew some extremely high effort from Jones on his return with the second team, with Jones even going so far as to chase down Von and give him some dap after the play. Jones credited Von’s explosion and decision-making on the play after Pearson followed his blocker, picked his cut, and then exploded up the middle of the field to open grass. While Pearson – who muffed/fumbled his second rep – isn’t likely to take away the starting job at kick returns away from Evan Berry (who is still very fast, by the way), Von looks much faster than he did at any point last year and should be considered a more-than-worthy number two option should the Vols need him.
Injury notes: The trio of Pig Howard, Jalen Hurd and Marquez North remained in green jerseys for the final practice of the spring, but all were full participants today. Jason Croom was at practice and got in some jogging and sprints on the side, but did not participate with any of the other receivers.