Tennessee took the practice field on Thursday, and they started to sprinkle in some West Virginia prep as they began finishing up fall camp. The media didn’t get to see any specifics of the preparations for the Mountaineers, but there were plenty of players designated for scout team and a lot more walk-ons out on the field on Thursday.
The day began feeling like fall outside, but the heat and humidity was back in full force by the time the Vols hit the practice field.
Here are our notes and observations from Tennessee’s Thursday practice session.
Who’s becoming a surprise contributor on the defense? Who looks like the most likely candidate to return kicks and punts for the Vols? Read that and more in our Premium Practice Report from today’s practice on RTI Premium!
- Darrin Kirkland Jr. was running through drills, and while he was taking things a little slowly, Kevin Sherrer praised him once as he ran through a drill after Daniel Bituli and Quart’e Sapp with the inside linebackers. He’s been eased back into action this whole fall, and it looks like he’s finally about ready to go full speed here in the next day or two.
- Kivon Bennett received some hard coaching today from Chris Rumph. He had to run through a pass rushing drill three times before Rumph was pleased with the results. Bennett has been moved to outside linebacker for now, and it remains to be seen how long he’ll continue to work there. He’s been there for about a week now.
- Speaking of Rumph, he was also pressing hard on Jordan Allen today. As a whole, Tennessee’s outside linebacker unit looked fine today, but Rumph was making sure his players weren’t slacking on their fundamentals and on the fine details with just over a week to go before the start of the 2018 season. Allen was asked to do over a drill on two separate occasions.
- If you like what you saw from Daniel Bituli last season, then I have good news for you: He looks like he’s going to be even better this year. I’m impressed with how much he’s increased his explosiveness off the whistle, and he’s become even more athletic and physical. That should scare opposing running backs, because Bituli was already a monster as a sophomore last year. He could be in store for a huge junior season.
- Jeremy Pruitt worked with the cornerbacks throughout the open portion of practice today. He’s a very hands-on coach, but not in a bad way from what I can tell. He doesn’t seem to micromanage or get in the way of his other coaches; Pruitt just likes to teach through actions and demonstrations rather than just through words. He and Terry Fair are continuously preaching the importance of vision and hip movement to UT’s corners.
- Tennessee’s defensive line looks set to be big, fast, and aggressive. Time will tell how the lineup actually fares, but I think the Vols’ coaching staff feels pretty alright with Shy Tuttle, Kyle Phillips, Alexis Johnson, and Emmit Gooden right now. Beyond that, I think the depth is questionable and very young. But UT will have to use more than just Gooden as a depth player this year on the line, so it will be interesting to see who they put out there first. True freshman John Mincey is a likely candidate at this point.