Some notes and observations from the open portion of practice on Friday afternoon.
Shorts/shoulder pads: It looked like a little bit of a lighter day, with the Vols going in shorts, helmets and shoulder pads on Friday afternoon. We’re not exactly sure what the format for Saturday will be in terms of how much of a scrimmage-like setting it will be, but it looked like the Vols were gearing up to get some significant work in tomorrow, in what might be their last really physical day as the opener will be within two weeks at that point.
Offensive line: With the depth shrinking on the offensive line with Marcus Jackson and Austin Sanders both confirmed out for the year, Don Mahoney was really focusing on technique with all of the linemen he has out there. Hand placement, leverage, footwork, punch and hip placement were all things the coaches were watching as the offensive line went through various drills involving the blocking shed and blocking chute.
Maxim One: We were present for the Maxim 1 period, which is, “The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.”
During this period the Vols work on a variety of very small details, mostly pertaining to ball security and trying to maximize every opportunity to limit mistakes. They do things like have a defensive back cover a receiver, deflect the ball and then have the safety come up and try to make the interception of the tipped ball. To nobody’s surprise, Cam Sutton is one of the best at this drill.
The linebackers work on punching the ball out from behind, the running backs work on ball security, the quarterbacks work on feeling the pressure and the defensive line worked on getting their hands up to bat ball.
On the field sometimes it might look like turnovers can be random, but when you see the amount of tedious work that goes into practice in that area, you can see why some teams are better than others at causing them.
Three-man weave: The Vols started practice with the three-man weave, which was a staple of Butch Jones’ first season in Knoxville, but hasn’t been used as commonly recently. Basically, three players run up the field, weaving in front and behind each other while tossing the football to each other in the process. It’s a way to improve coordination and concentration, while getting the players loose at the same time.
Skill work: The quarterbacks worked on throwing the ball to the backs, and Alvin Kamara and Ralph David Abernathy IV both look very natural catching the ball in that situation. The QBs and WRs also did some red-zone throwing as well. Jauan Jennings had one of the most athletic-looking grabs of all of camp, but it looked like his foot came down on the line, meaning it would’ve been an incompletion. Josh Malone – who has still had a good camp overall – had one fairly bad drop in that drill, reminding that he still has to work on consistency as the Vols approach the season opener.
Wearing green, non-contact jerseys: DT Kahlil McKenzie, S LaDarrell McNeil, RB John Kelly, WR Adrian Gamble
There was no media availability after practice, so there will be no further personnel or injury updates today. Butch Jones is scheduled to speak to the media following the 10:45 am practice on Saturday.