Some notes and observations from the open portion of Tuesday’s practice at Haslam Field as the Vols look to rebound from their loss to Oklahoma and prepare for Western Carolina (7 pm ET, ESPNU) on Saturday.
Hitting right out of the gates: It appeared to be a fairly physical practice on Tuesday as the Vols looked to shake off a frustrating loss where they were physically outplayed in the second half by the Sooners. A lesser opponent this week might afford a little bit of an opportunity to get some extra work in since, odds are, the starters won’t be playing four quarters against the Catamounts.
The Vols went right into the Circle of Life drill as soon as the media was allowed on the field. Freshman defensive end Quay Picou had one of the best reps that we could see, putting freshman offensive tackle Jack Jones on his back. They went for a Round 2 and it ended in more of a stalemate. Another heavyweight battle of offensive lineman Charles Mosley and defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie was extremely close, though it looked like McKenzie got the upper-hand at the end just slightly and the defense certainly celebrated as if it won that rep. Jauan Jennings had another good rep in a drill he excels in. Safety Stephen Griffin was his victim this time as he easily drove him out of the circle.
After stretching, Butch Jones asked for a couple more matchups. Dillon Bates, a linebacker we’ve received a lot of questions about early in the season, had the best rep of this session, easily defeating freshman linebacker Austin Smith, putting him on his back in the process.
Defensive line notes: With the announcement by Butch Jones yesterday that Curt Maggitt is out an extended period of time, a lot of the pressure turns to some of those younger defensive ends to step up. From the limited portion of practice we saw, it looked like freshman end Kyle Phillips had a good day, as he drew the praise of coaches on a couple occasions. Corey Vereen, LaTroy Lewis and Dimarya Mixon are some of the other names to watch at defensive end.
DeBord working with O-line: This isn’t a new development by any stretch of the imagination, but offensive coordinator Mike DeBord spent the entire open portion working with the offensive line, essentially co-coaching the position with offensive line coach Don Mahoney. Graduate assistant coach Nick Sheridan continues to serve as a de facto quarterbacks coach for this team, at least in the times that we see.
Passing notes: We just saw a couple periods of throwing on Tuesday, but the short to intermediate throws seemed to be finding their marks. The deep ball, which will continue to be something the Vols need to progress on, is still struggling. Dobbs failed a couple times to connect on deep passes in the limited opportunities we saw as the Vols continue to develop that part of the offense.
• As Butch Jones said on Monday, LaDarrell McNeil continued to work on the practice field, though he was in a green, non-contact jersey.
• A scout from the Detroit Lions was in attendance at practice