Practice three of Tennessee’s training camp finished up tonight at around 8:45 on Haslam Field. Despite threatening skies, the Vols opted to practice outside, hoping to avoid the rain that was passing through the area. We are told, however, that the team was forced to finish indoors after a strong shower blew through during the second half of practice. And while we didn’t actually get to see any 11-on-11 football tonight, there were definitely some noteworthy items from the defensive side of the ball.
So, here those are…
For starters: Practice began with some one-on-one battles spread throughout various position groups. We were able to see some clearly, while others were muddled over the microphone and took place among the swarm of orange-and-white-clad members of Team 119…all that to say, I’m just going to hit the highlights instead of a true by-play.
During red zone one-on-ones, JUCO transfer Justin Martin got the best of Josh Malone on a fade in the end zone by making the window small and forcing an inaccurate pass. Martin’s length and athleticism will make him a nightmare for opposing offenses in the red zone. A bad throw by Quinten Dormady gave Micah Abernathy the win over Jauan Jennings, and, in fairness, the bad throw was probably a result of Abernathy’s tremendous coverage. Dobbs overthrew Marquez North badly on the third rep with receivers and defensive backs, giving Rashaan Gaulden the win. North was not very pleased with his quarterback after the play.
In the ‘Circle of Life” drill, Kahlil McKenzie and Charles Mosley battled to a tie in the first rep (…anticlimactic, I know). Austin Smith got the better of Alex Ellis, and Chance Hall had a great rep against Corey Vereen in which he drove Vereen to the ground. Micah Abernathy got the best of his older brother Ralph David, and Jauan Jennings absolutely demolished – I repeat, demolished – Justin Martin, even getting in a little smack talk afterwards as his offensive
Later on, Shy Tuttle overpowered Marcus Jackson during a pass rush drill after Jackson started strong and appeared to be holding his own. But the story of the night was Kahlil McKenzie‘s posterization of Austin Sanders. The video will be making the rounds across every sports platform tonight and tomorrow (I wouldn’t be surprised if it makes it to SportsCenter), and it is worthy of your attention. It was one thing to do it to high school competition, but for Kahlil to do what he did tonight in his first one-on-one rep is incredibly impressive. I know Sanders isn’t Sebastian Tretola, but still. McKenzie is a freak, and he was on full display tonight. The true freshman ran through Sanders like a rhinoceros and left everyone in attendance in a state of excited disbelief – something that I haven’t witnessed on the practice field before. The hype-machine for him has no chance of slowing down at this point.
Defensive line: This group did a lot of work on gap integrity and fundamentals…nothing really exciting about the work that they were doing, but it is worth noting that Chris Weatherd continues to work with the defensive ends. His role this season continues to be an enigma.
Linebackers: This group has a lot of options in the middle, and, really, all across the three linebacker spots. Jalen Reeves-Maybin has a lot of fun at practice, and that energy is starting to impact his teammates in a positive way. Kenny Bynum was the first player through all drills, and looks like he is doing everything he can to lock down that MLB spot, but the younger guys are going to push him the whole way. I thought Cortez McDowell looked really good in the limited work we were able to see tonight, as well.
Secondary: Nothing ground-breaking with this group. The safeties worked on reading the quarterback’s eyes and making a play on the football, while the corners did a lot of “hand” work with some of the blocking sleds and practice dummies. The biggest note from this group is that Rashaan Gaulden was back with the cornerbacks tonight after spending the first two practices at safety…Rashaan continues to pace the team in wearing the most extra gear during practice.
Absences: No LaTroy Lewis or Andrew Butcher again this evening, and Trevarris Saulsberry didn’t participate in any portion of practice. Saulsberry watched from the side as the DL went through their drills, but was walking with a noticeable limp. Quay Picou wasn’t dressed out, but did take in the work of the DL alongside Saulsberry.
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