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Defensive Notes From the Open Practice


Depth chart notes: Tonight was by far our most prolonged look at the team in 11-on-11 types of situations, and thus a great mid-camp checkpoint on the depth chart. Obviously a lot of guys are injured, some veteran guys were just being held out as a precaution and there was plenty of shuffling and rotating, so it’s difficult to nail down a two deep, but this what I would call the two-deep that we saw, for the most part:


DE: Derek Barnett
DT: Kendal Vickers
DT: Danny O’Brien
DE: Curt Maggitt
OLB: Jalen Reeves-Maybin
MLB: Kenny Bynum
CB: Malik Foreman (Sutton held out)
CB: Emmanuel Moseley
NB: Rashaan Gaulden
S: Brian Randolph
S: LaDarrell McNeil


DE: Kyle Phillips/Dimarya Mixon
DT: Shy Tuttle/ Quay Picou
DT: Kahlil McKenzie
DE: Corey Vereen/Darrell Taylor
OLB: Elliott Berry
MLB: Colton Jumper/Darrin Kirkland Jr.
CB: Maleik Gatewood
CB: Devin Williams
NB: Micah Abernathy
S: Todd Kelly Jr.
S: Evan Berry

Injury update: There was some good and some bad on this front, with several players returning to the field, but some new developments as well. LB Dillon Bates, CB Darrell Miller and LB Chris Weatherd were a few guys out that we hadn’t previously seen miss much time. Kahlil McKenzie also had his practice cut short, and was seen limping around the field.  It didn’t look serious at first glance, but I’m sure many fans were disappointed to miss him practicing more, especially after he had a great rep earlier in practice (more to come on that).

CB Justin Martin, DT Trevarris Saulsberry, S Stephen Griffin, DE LaTroy Lewis, DE Andrew Butcher and LB Cortez McDowell were some of the other players held out, but no huge surprise on them since most of them have missed multiple practices recently. Cam Sutton didn’t do much, but that looked very much precautionary – they know what they have with him. Evan Berry was back on the field for the first time in a week or so, and had a non-contact jersey on. Owen Williams was dressed, but I didn’t see him do much either.

Plays that stood out: 

• He’s not perfect, and he has his off moments, but when Kahlil McKenzie is on, he can be about as dominant as anybody the Vols have in the trenches. Most everybody saw the clip of him earlier in camp running over Austin Sanders, and he did it again tonight, except Coleman Thomas was the victim this time. McKenzie ran right through him and put him on his back, drawing plenty of oohs and ahhs from the crowd on that side of the stadium. McKenzie also started out the Circle of Life drill, and though it was close, it looked like he got the best of Charles Mosley in an 800-pound battle of pure will.

• Derek Barnett also had a great rep against Coleman Thomas in a one-on-one pass rushing situation, using his quickness to fake outside and then break inside on him for a free path to the quarterback. Butch Jones said Barnett has been studying film of J.J. Watt and it looked like it on that play.

• With all the newcomers emerging on the defensive line, it’s easy to forget about DE Dimarya Mixon, who is heading into his sophomore season at a lighter playing weight. But Mixon showed up at least a couple times, clearly beating Drew Richmond once in a pass-rushing drill, and then doing a good job against the heavier Venzell Boulware in the Circle of Life Drill.

• All-in-all, I don’t have a complete tally, but I thought the defensive line won the battle against the offensive line for much of the evening, especially in pass-rushing situations. McKenzie, Barnett, Mixon and others had multiple solid reps against an offensive line that is still finding its way and still missing some players due to injury.


• Butch Jones estimated the attendance around 40,000, which is how many people showed up last year. That might be a touch generous, but it’s believable that 30,000+ were in the stands on a nice night at Neyland.

• Jones also introduced a new first-down chant where the West side of the stadium will say “Rocky” and the East side will say “Top,” followed by three claps from the fans. This comes after the PA announcers says, “That’s a Tennessee first down.” It got mixed reviews, at best, on social media. It took the crowd a few times to pick it up.

• The Vols aren’t much closer to naming a starting punter, but Jones put them under the spotlight, getting the crowd to cheer while Tommy Townsend, Nathan Renfro and Trevor Daniel all got reps. All three were up-and-down, but Townsend and Daniel each had one punt that drew a lot of cheers. Jones, after practice, said that all three punters have the ability, but he’s looking for consistency.

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