Some observations from the open portion of Tuesday’s spring practice.
Technique Tuesday: That was the mantra from the coaches and sound system today. Most of the drills weren’t too flashy, but mainly had to do with ball control and special teams.
Not too much stuck out overall. Although this was the longest amount of time the media has had all spring to watch practice, there wasn’t a ton to report on. The quarterbacks weren’t throwing to any receivers. All five of them were taking snaps under center and throwing to a manager. Butch Jones wasn’t around them at all, focusing on the running backs and wide receivers.
The duration of what I saw from the QBs had them under center. There was one drill where the quarterbacks joined the running backs and receivers simulating running through tacklers. Jarrett Guarantano impressed me with his speed and quick first step. When he runs with his head down he looks a lot like Joshua Dobbs taking off on a scramble.
This was what we saw:
Jarrett Guarantano showing off the mobility today pic.twitter.com/hVSj2KKrS0
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) April 4, 2017
Once again, I think that Sheriron Jones is a fantastic third option at quarterback for Tennessee. He has a fluid motion that looks very smooth when he’s throwing the ball. His compact throwing motion has really improved since his first year on campus two years ago. Will McBride seems to be getting a lot more comfortable in this group. The freshman learning curve is far from over for him, but the day-to-day operations of practice are coming to him easier now.
O-line Newcomers: Trey Smith and Riley Locklear were both praised by offensive line coach Walt Wells during drills today. Smith showed better speed and quickness from the first practice a few weeks ago. He seems to be getting more comfortable, picking up on the technique and footwork that he was a little slow on at the beginning of spring. Of course, that’s certainly expected for a freshman, especially on the offensive line.
Riley Locklear and Marcus Tatum were two other guys who stood out. Tatum is probably the quickest guy on that offensive line. He certainly appears to have put on some weight over the offseason as well, but might have a little further to go in that department.
Special Teams Emphasis: Every player spent a period on special teams tackling drills, running vertically right at a returner and ushering him to the side of the field. Charlton Warren led the drill, barking instructions primarily at the defensive backs involved.
Baylen Buchanan stood out in this drill. Warren was right on top of him for most of the period, and Buchanan showed quicker feet and good open field tackling skills in chasing down the return man. Marquez Callaway was another guy who I thought was impressive here.
- Kevin Beard had on his gloves and cleats once again to throw balls to his wideouts. That group worked mainly on quick slants, but didn’t catch any balls from the quarterbacks
- Latrell Williams continues to show that he’s ready for a potential breakout season. I was impressed by his quickness of the ball. He’s a guy who Tennessee should be able to rely on in the slot, especially in short yardage situations.
- John Kelly continues to be the vocal leader of the offense. With the quarterbacks isolated for much of practice today, Kelly was yelling instructions at most of the position groups on the offensive side of the ball.
- Jakob Johnson is another guy who has stood out to me. He drew praise from offensive coordinator Larry Scott last week, and it’s deserved. Johnson has a strong grasp on his new position after moving from middle linebacker a few seasons ago. He can provide solid depth behind Ethan Wolf in Jason Croom’s absence this season.
- Walt Wells continues to win the loudest coach award. Despite taking on a new role, you can tell that he has a good familiarity with this team that translates well to the practice field.