Some notes and observations from the open portion of practice on Tuesday afternoon as the Vols prepare for the Aggies.
Personnel notes: As Butch Jones confirmed on Monday, cornerback Justin Martin, who was suspended for undisclosed reasons for the Georgia game on Saturday, was back on the practice field and appeared to be full go from what we could tell. Jones said Martin will have to earn his way onto the travel squad to College Station, but with the talent the Aggies have at receiver, and UT’s lack of depth at corner, it’s probably a good bet that he’ll be there.
For the first time in recent memory, there were no players in the open portion of practice in green, non-contact uniforms. Don’t take that as a sign that this team is perfectly healthy, however. That might be some trickeration from Jones, who wants to make sure he doesn’t tip Texas A&M off on any injury information.
Kevin Sumlin revealed zero injury information to the A&M media today, so all bets appear to be off for this midseason, top-10 clash.
Start fast: That continues to be a theme at practice, with virtually every position coach emphasizing that as the Vols got loose for drills on Tuesday.
UT’s early-game struggles have been evident to anybody watching this team regularly. The Vols have fallen behind by at least two scores in four of their five games so far this season. Tennessee is certainly looking to buck that trend in College Station, though as long as the Vols keeps winning, fans won’t mind what it looks like.
Special emphasis: As is standard early in practices, the Vols had a strong emphasis on special teams. They will be challenged in that area on Saturday with A&M featuring returner Christian Kirk, who hasn’t put up huge numbers this year, but was one of the most dangerous players in the nation in 2015.
• Jones confirmed last week that Coleman Thomas is getting closer to 100%, and he appears to be moving well out at practice as the O-line went through a blocking drill on the sled. It’s tough to see the Vols shuffling their starting five of Brett Kendrick, Jashon Robertson, Dylan Wiesman, Jack Jones and Chance Hall, but having Thomas back healthy for depth purposes would be a nice boon for depth since he can play both center and tackle.
• We saw the young quarterbacks working on an accuracy drill as the open portion wrapped up. Jarrett Guarantano, who appears more and more to be heading for a redshirt season, continues to show that he has an absolute canon, as well as great accuracy. He was drawing some “oohs” and “aahs” as he worked a drill where he dropped back, had the coach tell him which side to throw it, and then whipped it right on the money with regularity.