Tennessee took the field on Monday for practice as part of their game week preparations for No. 17 West Virginia. The Vols open up the 2018 season in just five days when they take on the Mountaineers in Charlotte for a neutral site game.
The heat was oppressive on Monday, but the Vols were active and geared up for game week. Coaches kept reminding players it was game week if they ever let up in drills, and the focus was clear today.
Here are our notes and observations from today’s practice session.
Who is looking like quality depth in the receiving corps? Who could be losing their starting job at some point this season? Read that and more in our Premium Practice Report from today’s practice session!
- Jarrett Guarantano throws a much prettier deep ball this year than he did last year. Granted, he did what he did in practice today without any pressure in his face and without his receivers being covered, but he hit Josh Palmer in stride on a beautiful deep pass during routes vs. air today.
- Cedric Tillman could develop into a potent deep threat for the Vols down the line. I don’t expect him to be relied on too much this season as a true freshman, but he’s already flashing ability as a solid deep target. His frame alone lends him to having natural ability there, but he does a good job of not running too far or watching the ball too long when running deeper routes.
- David Johnson got on to several receivers today for not “attacking the ball” on their routes and simply letting up and letting the ball hit them in the stomach as they caught it. Tyler Byrd was guilty of doing that once, though Byrd overall had a very impressive showing in the routes vs. air portion in my opinion.
- Darrin Kirkland Jr. and Jauan Jennings both looked active today, and both were participating fully in the drills we got to see during the open portion of practice.
- Austin Smith continues to look more and more improved this fall. He was someone who could’ve been a big contributor for the Vols in the past if not for injuries, and I fully expect him to be a good rotational player for UT this year if he can stay healthy.
- It doesn’t surprise me at all that Jahmir Johnson is fighting really hard for a starting spot for UT on the offensive line. He’s a guy I liked since the day Tennessee signed him during the early signing period in December, and I love his athleticism and sneaky strength. He’s not as big as a Trey Smith or Drew Richmond, but he’s a lot stronger than he looks. And his footwork is very impressive.
- Tennessee’s offensive line was working on pulling their blocks and reaching the second level on run blocks as well. Movement and mobility was the key during the open portion of today’s practice, and both Johnson and Drew Richmond showed off some good speed today.
- Tracy Rocker wanted his defenders to focus on getting upfield and chipping off blocks today. The focus of the linebackers during the open portion was speed, awareness, and getting in the backfield as quickly as possible. That will be important when the Vols take on West Virginia and their potent passing attack.