Some notes and observations from the open portion of practice on Friday afternoon.
Von’s back…almost: The biggest news of the day clearly came just before practice began, when Tennessee confirmed via its official Twitter account that wide receiver Von Pearson has been reinstated to the team. He was not, however, back on the practice field, at least during the open portion of practice on Friday afternoon.
“He’ll begin practice tomorrow with the team and he’ll undergo the five-practice acclimation period that’s required by the NCAA,” Jones said.
Jakob Johnson cross-training: Sophomore Jakob Johnson was in a white jersey on Friday, the color of the offense. He was running through some routes with the tight ends near the beginning of practice and was seen working with both the linebackers and the tight ends at various times during the three periods available to the media.
That’s an interesting move, and one that, reading the tea leaves, probably means he’s not one of the front-runners in a race at inside linebacker that includes as many as seven players – Johnson, Kenny Bynum, Darrin Kirkland Jr., Gavin Bryant, Dillon Bates, Austin Smith and Colton Jumper. With so many athletic guys in that competition, and the loss of Kyle Oliver and Daniel Helm since last season at the position, this is a way to increase the depth at tight end. Johnson, meanwhile, has had quite a positional journey, playing defensive end, outside linebacker, middle linebacker and now at least a bit of tight end.
“We tried to Jakob Johnson a little bit at tight end, trying to get more competition at that spot,” coach Butch Jones said after practice. “I’ll see a little bit on video of how he did, but Jakob’s an individual who is willing to do anything to help the football team, so early in camp you can afford to try to build your competitive nature at each and every position.”
Drills: There wasn’t anything nearly as exciting as the Kahlil McKenzie/Shy Tuttle plays that came out yesterday, but we saw the quarterbacks, wide receivers and defensive backs go through some drills where they worked on going up and getting the ball at its highest point. There will be no huge surprise here, but Cam Sutton, Evan Berry and Todd Kelly Jr. were some of the defensive backs who really excelled at tracking down long passes, going up and getting them and picking them off in this drill.
We may sound like a bit of a broken record, but Jauan Jennings had yet another impressive play in receiving drills – making a nice leaping catch at one point early in practice. One interesting note on him also is that it appears that he’s working with the slot receivers. Pig Howard, Vincent Perry and freshman walk-on Michael Lacey are some of the other players I saw working with the slot group, which is likely where Pearson will work when he returns to the practice field as well.
• After being held out yesterday, Jashon Robertson was back in pads, though Jones said he’s battling a stomach bug. DT Trevarris Saulsberry, WR Jason Croom (knee), DE Andrew Butcher and DB Max Arnold were all held out with injuries.
• Freshman defensive tackle Quay Picou was in a helmet, but no pads as he goes through the mandatory acclimation period. He should be full go at some point next week.
• A New York Giants scout was in attendance at practice.
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