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Tennessee Practice Report: 3-23-17

Photo Credit: Will Boling/RTI

Some notes and observations from the open portion of spring practice on Thursday afternoon.

Quarterback notes: The most critiqued position group remained closely watched on Thursday. Larry Scott was the most vocal coach while watching some of the throwing drills, particularly singling out the wide receivers.

It’s still so early in the competition, but Jarett Guarantano and Quinten Dormady had better days on Thursday after both starting out a bit rusty on Tuesday. While Guarantano threw some gorgeous deep balls on Tuesday, he was also short on some of his passes – an issue that’s come up a few times through the first couple practice. At least in the open portion we’ve seen, Dormady has been more consistent in the two days, but hasn’t had some of the “wow” moments that Guarantano has. It’s certainly going to be an interesting race.

Guarantano had more throws to the primary receivers today. He threw a couple of nice balls to John Kelly and Carlin Fils-aime. Without Kamara in that backfield, the running backs have done a lot of work catching the ball from all the QBs.

Guarantano and Dormady were on separate sides of the field. Dormady threw with Sheriron Jones at midfield while Guarantano was with Will McBride in the end zone. The highlight of the day was a one handed catch by tight end Andrew Craig on a Guarantano back shoulder throw.

Guarantano worked more on short throws, specifically over the middle. He worked out some timing with tight ends Ethan Wolf and Jakob Johnson. On the other side of the field, Dormady was throwing deeper passes on the sideline, similar to what we saw on Tuesday. It makes sense that the less experienced Guarantano was on more timing drills with his tight ends and slot receivers

RTI’s spring practice coverage is sponsored by the Nautical Boat Club of Knoxville!

Newcomer thoughts: A few quick thoughts on the five early enrollees this spring after watching them for a couple days:

OT Trey Smith: Obviously the most physically impressive of the five newcomers, the former top recruit is getting his first opportunity at left tackle and he has the frame the compete for early playing time. Coach Walt Wells has been really pushing him to work on his feet and hand placement through the first couple practices. While Smith certainly has a world of upside, Tennessee also has a lot of options and competition at tackle including Brett Kendrick, Drew Richmond, Chance Hall and others. It’s too early to pencil Smith in anywhere yet.

• OL Riley Locklear: Locklear looks like a versatile offensive lineman that could potentially end up at any spot, but might be best suited inside. He’s physically ahead of where guys like Marcus Tatum and Nathan Niehaus were coming in last year. Still, I think he’s a redshirt candidate due to Tennessee’s depth on the offensive line.

• LB Shanon Reid: Two “S”s come to mind: Small and speedy. At 6-0, 205 pound, he’s one of the smallest linebackers I’ve seen in the Butch Jones era, but he can certainly move. He’ll need some time to bulk up to a size that the coaches will feel comfortable with him playing at, but his speed should get him on special teams sooner than later.

• DE Deandre Johnson: Also a bit undersized compared to some of the other defensive ends, but looks to be a natural pass rusher with a nice first step. Needs some time before he sees the field.

• QB Will McBride: Small, but seems to be quick and competitive. He’s still getting the kinks worked out as far as learning the drills and how practice operates. He’ll redshirt in 2017 barring a mass exodus and/or injury situation for the quarterbacks.

Additional Notes:

  • The defensive line was working with the secondary on ball control drills. Alexis Johnson was impressive with his speed off the whistle and ability to get right on the fumbled ball. He worked alongside Kahlil McKenzie. A slimmer Jonathan Kongbo was once again showing off his speed in this drill. When he recovered the ball and ran to the end zone he looked more like a tight end.
  • This is going to be a big spring for sophomore corner Marquill Osborne. He worked alongside Emmanuel Moseley, who said on Tuesday that he’s assumed the “Cam Sutton role” as defensive leader. Osborne was a little slower to recover a fumble, but was quick with the ball once he had it.
  • Justin Martin looked strong in his work alongside Todd Kelly Jr. With so much uncertainty in front of those two on the defense side of the ball, Kelly and Martin have certainly looked like some of the leaders of this unit. Kelly has been the most impressive in that bunch so far.
  • Austin Smith, as Butch Jones confirmed on Tuesday, was working with the linebackers. That’s the only position change at this point.

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