It was a perfect evening in Knoxville on Saturday night as Tennessee held their open practice in front of an estimated crowd of 35-40,000 inside Neyland Stadium. The action was a typical practice highlighted by some 11-on-11 reps and competitive drills toward the end. Without boring you with all of the minute details of the evening, here are the key takeaways from the offensive side of the ball – including a handful of players who returned to practice after missing time with injuries.
Welcome back: With growing concerns surrounding the health of Team 119, the Vols welcomed back a handful of offensive players to the practice field this evening. Marquez North was at practice, but did not participate and was walking around “gingerly” on his recently tweaked knee. Jalen Hurd was back at practice and participated in every aspect of practice from what I could see…They appeared to limit his live reps, but Hurd is fine. Jashon Robertson was in full pads and went through a few drills, but, like Hurd, appeared to have his live reps limited. Fellow lineman Dylan Wiesman was back on the field tonight, and received a bulk of the first team reps at guard. Jason Croom was also back out there tonight as a limited participant in the drill reps with the wide receivers, while Pig Howard also made his return and was full-go. Tight end Ethan Wolf was a full participant in tonight’s practice, but was sporting a heavily taped ankle.
New bumps and bruises: While many offensive players were welcomed back tonight, there were a few new injuries to players that we we previously unaware of. None appeared to be serious, and I won’t get into specifics, but Jack Jones, Brett Kendrick and Alvin Kamara all appeared to be limited during some or all of tonight’s practice.
Highlights: I thought that the quarterbacks looked pretty sharp for the most part, especially in routes-vs.-air and skeleton work (4-on-4/7-on-7). They appeared to struggle a little bit once they went to full 11-on-11 reps, but the jumbled receiver rotation may have played a big part in that. Josh Malone, Josh Smith, Von Pearson, Johnathon Johnson, Jauan Jennings and Vincent Perry all worked with the first team offense at various times.
Malone had a great rep in a red zone one-on-one against Cam Sutton in which he faked to the outside and beat Sutton (badly) to the inside for an easy score. Jauan Jennings and Vincent Perry each had a few circus-style catches in jump-ball situations that resulted in big plays or touchdowns. Jennings has the skill to be a difference-make in this league very quickly, while Perry looks like he should slide seamlessly into the role that Pig Howard plays once Howard moves on. I really like Perry and think he has the potential to be a nice weapon for this offense once he gets comfortable with the system.
Ethan Wolf got behind Colton Jumper for a big play up the seam during some skeleton work that proved his ankle injury appears to be nothing to be concerned about. In fact, Wolf had a few really nice reps tonight and looks like he’s playing with a ton of confidence right now.
It wasn’t a great night for the offensive line, but it wasn’t terrible. They are still in mix-and-match mode at the guard spots AND dealing with some injuries, so it’s to be expected at this point. They actually ran the football fairly well in 11-on-11 drills, including a long touchdown run by Joe Young, who continues to look like he has a bright future at the running back position. The offensive line tonight was LT–Kyler Kerbyson, LG–Charles Mosley, C–Mack Crowder, RG–Brett Kendrick/Dylan Wiesman, RT–Coleman Thomas.