Some notes and observations from the open portion of practice on Tuesday. The Vols held their final session that was open to the media on a warm afternoon on Haslam Practice field before taking on Bowling Green on Saturday in Nashville.
Light prep day: The Vols were in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets as they start to wind down preparations for Bowling Green. A good portion of the team wore black practice squad jerseys to simulate the Falcons. The 90-degree temperature at the start of practice Tuesday will be good prep as the game-time temperature in Nashville is supposed to be in the low-to-mid 90s on Saturday.
All eyes on the receivers: The receivers drew quite a crowd of media. That’s been one of the most talked-about positions in camp with a lot of news coming out surrounding that bunch. We did get our first look at Preston Williams on the practice field after he was officially cleared by the NCAA last week. Butch Jones spoke about the challenges Williams will face in trying to get on the field early after missing all of camp.
“We have to make sure we take it in a step-by-step process,” Jones said on Monday. “We don’t ask too much of him too early; not only from a mental standpoint, but also from a physical standpoint.”
Williams took some of those first steps on Tuesday, working on footwork, blocking and running a couple routes in the red zone with the receivers. He’s clearly looks the part in terms of having a long frame, and we saw some glances of his athleticism in limited viewing as well. Blocking looks like a work-in-progress for him, though, let’s be honest, the Vols didn’t recruit him to block – that’s something that will develop in time.
Eight scholarship receivers participated in practice on Tuesday – Williams, Josh Smith, Marquez North, Johnathon Johnson, Jauan Jennings, Von Pearson and Josh Malone and Pig Howard. Howard, of course, is suspended for the Bowling Green, but is still practicing this week. That gives UT seven scholarship receivers available for the Bowling Green game, and that is including Williams, who Jones indicated earlier this week will be expected to participate.
Punting battle: One battle not decided in camp is the punting competition. Tommy Townsend, Nate Renfro and Trevor Daniel are listed as the co-starters, and all three were getting reps on Tuesday. From our limited viewing, it looked like Daniel was the most consistent, though Townsend also boomed at least one. We probably haven’t seen enough of those three to make a smart projection, but Jones has said he’s looking for consistency, and Daniel seems to have had a solid fall, after having a decent spring, so there’s at least a chance the walk-on could get the nod on Saturday.
O-line thoughts: The offensive line did a ton of work under the blocking chutes under the watchful eye of offensive line coach Don Mahoney and offensive coordinator Mike DeBord. The depth chart lists Kyler Kerbyson, Jashon Robertson, Mack Crowder, Coleman Thomas, Dylan Wiesman and Brett Kendrick as starters or co-staters, and it’s probably a safe assumption that all those guys will get to play. Charles Mosley, Jack Jones and Chance Hall are some other guys who have caught my eye recently as improving over the course of camp – they all certainly could play as well.
• As Jones mentioned earlier in the week, safety Stephen Griffin was, indeed at practice, for the first time in an open session in a few weeks after missing a good portion of camp.
• The Vols worked on throws inside the 20-yard line. Josh Malone had a couple nice grabs in the end zone, one thrown from Quinten Dormady and another from Joshua Dobbs.
• A scout from the New Orleans Saints was in attendance.