Bringing the noise: With Tennessee facing its first true road opportunity in The Swamp this weekend, it was no surprise that Butch Jones turned up the noise quite literally at practice – bringing in speakers and blaring simulated crowd noise while the Vols worked in practice.
Jones is no stranger to this technique – sometimes making the team practice with loud, random sounds such as breaking glass, crying babies, jet engines and other similar noises to get used to playing with distracting and loud situations. But as Jones himself pointed out earlier this week, there are 29 players who will be boarding a plane for their first SEC game this week, so this will be a new and different level of challenge for a lot of players in Gainesville.
O’Brien returns: As Jones noted on Monday, redshirt junior defensive tackle Danny O’Brien returned to practice this week after being suspended the past two weeks. O’Brien recorded a pair of tackles and a sack in the season opener against Bowling Green, but missed the Oklahoma and Western Carolina contests following that. Jones said nothing will be given to him upon his return to the field this week.
“He has to earn everything,” Jones said. “He has to earn the travel roster spot by his performance in practice and by doing everything right. We have already spoken to him and laid out the guidelines. It starts today in practice, doing everything right. He has to earn his way back to playing time and to be on the travel roster.”
Still striped: The whole helmet stripe concept doesn’t seem to be as big a deal after the first few come off, but it’s interesting to see some of the players who still have the stripe. Perhaps most notably, receiver Preston Williams, who was named SEC Freshman of the Week after catching three passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns, still has his on. As does Kahlil McKenzie who had a forced fumble this past weekend. Running back John Kelly, lineman Chance Hall and lineman Jack Jones are among the other players who have seen significant game experience and still have their stripe.
Newcomers lose their stripes when coaches/upperclassmen deem they have shown enough in practices/games to prove themselves.
McNeil progressing?: Jones said they were easing senior safety LaDarrell McNeil back in last week in his first time back from “neck instability” that cropped up during training camp. There was evidence of that last week as McNeil worked in a green, non-contact uniform and then played limited snaps off the bench against Western Carolina (though he made the most of his opportunity). McNeil is out of the non-contact jersey this week and it will be interesting to see how the Vols split the reps among the safeties at The Swamp.
• Receiver Cody Blanc was in uniform at practice for the first time since at least early training camp. Butch Jones has given no injury update or status report on the junior receiver, who has been limited by injuries throughout his career.
• Safety Max Arnold, who Jones listed as questionable this week, was on the practice field.
• Punter Trevor Daniel continues to excel in practice, hitting a couple fantastic punts at practice Tuesday, again showing why he won the job out of camp and has been impressive in his opportunities so far.