Notes and Observations From Spring Practice No. 1

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    A warm Monday afternoon turned into a cooler evening – giving Tennessee a taste of the types of weather they will encounter during the 2016 season.

    Monday’s practice, the first of the spring, was more about getting re-acclimated to the field, getting back in football shape, installing the offense and defense and working on technique and fundamentals. The Vols had no pads on in Day 1 and “tagged” up instead of wrapping or taking anybody to the ground.

    Here are a few things that stood out from the first six periods of Monday’s practice:

    Newcomers: There were just a trio of black helmet stripes on the field with only three new players going through spring practice – defensive back D.J. Henderson, receiver Jeff George and defensive back Marquill Osborne.

    Osborne looked compact, but very explosive as he went through defensive back drills. It was hard to get a good feel for Henderson on Day 1, but he’ll definitely be a name to watch in cornerback drills going forward. Teams don’t bring in JUCO guys who they don’t expect to help out quickly.

    And speaking of JUCo guys, receiver Jeff George is the lone newcomer on the offensive side. He was thinner than I expected and maybe not quite as tall either. He’s listed at 6-foot-6 on the roster, but might be a touch under that – or at least he appeared to be based on him standing by some other receivers. He had his ups and downs on Day 1, but you can see the upside. The offseason will be big for him – he could really use another 10-15 pounds.

    Who stood out: A few guys who I was impressed with on Monday:

    • DE Darrell Taylor: This guy keeps getting bigger and bigger. He’s a great example of somebody who used his redshirt season to really focus on the weight room and, though the defensive end position is relatively stacked, he should be able to find his way into the rotation sooner than later.

    • TE Jason Croom: I wasn’t able to get a great feel for how well he can block yet, but he was big (as always) and looked natural running routes over the middle. The tight end group of Ethan Wolf, Croom, Jakob Johnson and Neiko Creamer certainly looks the part. Can the Vols get consistency from that group – three of which are transplants from other positions?

    • WR Vincent Perry: For a player who missed all of 2015 and for somebody who Butch Jones said might be limited this spring, Perry seemed to move around and made some nice catches during the open portion of practice on Monday. It’s a limited bunch at wide receiver right now, so he should have every opportunity to claim a spot in the rotation this spring.

    • CB Justin Martin: I’m not saying he will be one, but he’s put on some weight over the offseason, and he looks like an NFL cornerback. I think he’s going to be a very solid No. 2 option for the Vols at CB this year and could grow into a lockdown guy.

    Passing game thoughts: There were definitely still some ups and downs in the passing game. And that’s to be expected to an extent with just three healthy scholarship returning receivers who had any production last year practicing this spring (Jauan Jennings, Preston Williams and Josh Smith). You can see those three really taking a leadership role. Behind them, there just aren’t many options at the moment outside of Perry and George right now. It’s tough to make a huge judgement on the passing game after one day, and until they get Josh Malone and the newcomers in there, but it still looks like a work in progress right now.

    Other notes:

    • New tight ends coach Larry Scott is one of the louder and more fiery guys on the field, and that’s saying a lot for this staff. He has a big challenge in both maximizing Ethan Wolf’s ability and developing all the other guys in his group that are new to the position, or even new to the program when Austin Pope and Devante Brooks arrive in the summer.