Tennessee Spring Practice Notes: 4/13

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    Photo Credit: Will Boling/RTI

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

    The throw game: Per usual, all eyes were on the passing drills as Quinten Dormady, Jarrett Guarantano, Sheriron Jones, Will McBride and Zac Jancek went through throwing drills with the receivers, tight ends and running backs.

    Maybe because it was just the focus that period of practice, or maybe it’s to not show a ton in the quarterback competition, but the focus was on shorter routes and timing while the media was able to report on practice.

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

    The quarterbacks were generally on target in this period, but it was the receivers that struggled in the drill. There were several dropped passes on very catchable balls. That drew the ire of Butch Jones as he oversaw the drill. Everybody from veteran Jauan Jennings to several of the younger players let the ball hit the ground at some point. Jones made several receivers redo routes as he looked for more consistency out of that drill.

    There were also some nice connections, however. Here are some quick clips of the main quarterback contenders throwing to the Wolf brothers (Eli and Ethan):

    Special teams: Special teams have been a big point of emphasis in both practices this week, so much so that Jones has banned any photo or video from the periods where they are working on their punt and kickoff teams.

    But in some of the other open periods, we’ve at least caught a glimpse of who all is working at punt returner. Jennings, Justin Martin, Marquez Callaway, Tyler Byrd, Baylen Buchanan and Latrell Williams are handling most of the reps. Josh Smith, who is the team’s most experienced returning punt returner, is out for the spring with an injury. Tennessee will be looking to replace both Cam Sutton and Alvin Kamara in this area.

    O-line thoughts: I spent one full period watching Walt Wells working with the offensive line. It’s certainly a new feel with that unit as it’s moved from a three-headed coaching approach (Don Mahoney, Mike DeBord and Wells) to Wells now being the only voice within that group.

    Wells is fiery to say the least. A few linemen felt his wrath when he realized that not every player had gone through the drill the number times that he’d asked. When there was some confusion in that area, he told them he’d check the tape on it and let them hear about it after practice.

    Leverage and hand placement were two of the big focuses on Thursday. Wells had the linemen working under the chute to keep their pad level low, while they battled each other in an effort to keep their hands inside during this blocking drill.

    Marcus Tatum is one second-year player in this group that is standing out this spring. He’s still a bit lean, but he’s also added a pretty significant amount of weight, and you can see why the coaches were so high on him coming out of high school. He has a great frame and moves extremely well, so with another year or so in the strength and conditioning program, he has the chance to be special.

    Other notes: 

    • Thursday was law enforcement appreciation day. The sidelines were lined with police officers and other law enforcement personnel, all of whom were given passes to watch the practice.

    • Tennessee has just three practice sessions (Saturday, next Tuesday and next Thursday) remaining before the Orange and White Game on April 22.