Practice Notes and Observations: 3/8/16

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    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    The Vols held their second practice of the spring on Tuesday evening, again going with no pads as they go through the acclimation process back to the practice field.

    Here are a few observations from Day 2:

    Second-year surge on the offensive line? I’ll start with caveat that it’s always difficult to learn much about the offensive line before the pads go on, but a couple redshirt freshman offensive linemen in Venzell Boulware and Drew Richmond have caught my eye.

    They’re both getting opportunities this spring with Chance Hall and Jashon Robertson out and they both look to be physically a bit stronger and both are moving well too. There’s obviously a lot of pressure on Richmond, in particular, after coming in as one of the highest-rated offensive linemen in the 2015 class.

    I’ve been impressive with his leverage – his ability to stay low – in drills so far. That was a concern had from watching his high school film. Throw in the impressive years that Jack Jones and Hall had last year, and it seems that the early returns on this class of offensive linemen are extremely positive.

    Better day in the passing game: I described the passing game as “up and down” on Monday. I thought, it was more up than down on Tuesday. Joshua Dobbs has good rapport with the veterans – Josh Smith, Preston Williams and Jauan Jennings – and Jeff George and Vincent Perry are showing some positive flashes as well.

    There are still a few balls hitting the ground, but, at least by my count in the few open drills, it seemed to be less on Day 2.

    Bright future at defensive end?: I continue to be impressed with defensive end Darrell Taylor, and the coaches seem to have nothing but good things to say about him as well. I initially thought 2017 might be his year to emerge, but I can’t rule out the possibility of him having a spot in the rotation in 2016.

    I also really like Austin Smith’s upside at defensive end. Butch Jones said he is over 250 pounds now, and he certainly looks the part.

    I’ve been able to see why Jones had this quote about Smith in his preseason press conference: “He has explosiveness off the edge. He has done a great job of really using the hand tactics and the different techniques through skill development that are associated with that position. We all know that he can run. He’s very physical. He’s very explosive, so I think that is just going to add to the overall depth, the overall component of the defensive end position.”