Tennessee Practice Observations: 3/10/16

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    Jauan Jennings-1

    The Vols put the pads on for the first time on Thursday evening as they held their final practice before a spring break hiatus.

    Here are some observations from this session:

    Jennings shines: This is no stunner if you read our practice notes from last fall camp in particular, but now rising sophomore Jauan Jennings really stood out in practice on Thursday.

    He had a nice catch in 1-on-1 drills near the goal line against Justin Martin:

    But his work in the “Circle of Life” drill might be more impressive. It’s tough to get a good video of that because the team surrounds the two players going head-to-head, but Jennings got back in the circle on Thursday and again dominated, as he almost always does. There’s a reason the Vols have him as one of the first guys down on kick coverage – he loves contact.

    The challenge for him in 2016 will be converting more of these spectacular practice plays to the game. He only had 14 catches last season, and the Vols will be looking for him to play a bigger role in the passing game this year.

    Circle of Life notes: Speaking of that drill, the Vols started practice with it as a way to kickoff the first day in pads. Dontavius Blair and Drew Richmond were some of the first to be called, and while it was tough to see, it looked like Blair more than held his own there. He’s a guy that has shown flashes in practice for 2+ years now, but it’s tough to say if it’ll all ever come together enough for him to be a serious contender to start.

    Jennings easily overpowered newcomer D.J. Henderson and Dimarya Mixon looked to get the best of fellow defensive end Darrell Taylor in another matchup.

    Abernathy impressing: If you’re looking for some early spring surprises, Micah Abernathy should be in that conversation. He’s looked like a natural at safety so far, but still showed he had cover-corner skills when he picked off this pass intended for Eli Wolf.

    There aren’t a ton of true “open competitions” on this roster, but the safety spot next to Todd Kelly Jr. is one of them in my opinion. And especially with Evan Berry on the shelf and Nigel Warrior not on campus yet, Abernathy is showing that he could be a name to watch there.

    Other 1-on-1 notes: The offensive line, for the most part, got the upper hand on the defense in pass-rushing drills at the beginning of practice.

    • Venzell Boulware stopped Quay Picou
    • Drew Richmond got Dimarya Mixon off balance and was able to force him to the ground
    • Charles Mosley, who looks more comfortable on the offensive line this spring, stonewalled walk-on defensive lineman Tyler Stokes
    • Dontavius Blair forced Austin Smith all the way around the pocket for a win on his rep
    • Darrell Taylor, however, won one for the defense when he got around Austin Sanders for a sack

    The Vols are off for spring break and will return to the practice field on Tuesday, March 22.