Notes: First Day of Vols’ Spring Practice 2019

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    Photo by Nathanael Rutherford/RTI

    Tennessee’s first day of spring practice in 2019 is in the books, and we were there to take it all in.

    The Vols took the practice field for the first time this year, and it marked the second set of spring practices in the Jeremy Pruitt era. Tennessee welcomes in 12 newcomers to the roster this spring, and the Vols also have three new assistant coaches on the field in Jim Chaney, Tee Martin, and Derrick Ansley.

    Managing editor Nathanael Rutherford and staff writer Ben McKee were both on the practice field to take in Tennessee’s first day of spring practices. Here’s what all they saw:

    Nathanael’s Notes

    • It may have been the first day of spring, but defensive line coach Tracy Rocker was getting after his unit like it’s the middle of fall. He wasn’t having it from his unit if they were lagging today. He was very vocal with the defensive line and harped on technique time and time again. The Vols are having to replace all three starters from last year, and it’s clear Rocker is wanting his unit to perform well.
    • With that being said, it’s worth noting that John Mincey, Emmit Gooden, and Matthew Butler were getting a lot of reps today. Newcomer Aubrey Solomon wasn’t far behind them, but it’s clear he’s going to have to work his way up the pecking order. Luckily for Tennessee, he’s more than capable of doing so, and if he can get eligible for the fall, that will be a huge boost.
    • LaTrell Bumphus has been moved over to the defensive line from tight end. The 6-foot-3, 264-pound athlete has moved around a couple different times in his UT career, but it looks like he may have finally found a home.
    • Quavaris Crouch already looks the part, and I like the explosiveness he has. He practiced with the inside linebackers, along with J.J. Peterson. The redshirt freshman looks more in shape than he did the last time we saw him in November, but he still doesn’t look quite as ready as I had hoped.
    • I don’t know what’s gotten in to Shanon Reid, but he looks like an NFL linebacker with the way he’s built. If he can play even half as well as he looks right now, watch out. He’s every bit of 6-foot, 230 pounds, and there’s not a lot of fat on him.
    • I’ll be very intrigued to see what kind of role Jaylen McCollough can carve out his freshman season. He already looks fairly impressive, and he should be able to get some snaps on defense rather than just special teams.
    • Nigel Warrior looks to be in the best shape of his life, and I’m excited to see what he can do. Trevon Flowers looks fully recovered from the injury he sustained last year, and I expect he’ll be the favorite to start alongside Warrior at safety.
    • Derrick Ansley stuck around with the secondary during the open portion of practice. But since Pruitt trusts him to coach the defensive backs, Pruitt was able to roam around a little more on the defensive side. Pruitt didn’t wander over to the offense any that I saw.
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    Ben’s Observations

    Quarterbacks:

    • All three quarterbacks looked good throwing the football against air; they threw to the running backs and then wide receivers. There were some inaccurate throws, but not many, from all three when working on timing routes to the sideline. Quarterbacks were on the far part of the field for the most part, so we didn’t see too much. It was usual first day of practice stuff.

    Running backs:

    • The RBs worked on far side of the field but were going through their usual drills with David Johnson. Jeremy Banks worked with the running backs rather than the linebackers.

    Wide Receivers:

    • Deangelo Gibbs worked with the receivers as he waits to find out if he’ll be eligible this season. Though he played DB at Georgia, he looks the part of a wide receiver and didn’t look out of place when running his routes. Jauan Jennings was at the front of every line and very vocal throughout the open portion, encouraging his teammates and telling his fellow wide receivers to finish their routes. After catching passes from the quarterbacks, Jeremy Pruitt brought over the defensive backs. The DBs worked on their press coverage and gaining leverage, while the receivers worked on going up against press coverage and stacking the DB. Ramel Keyton looks the part of an athletic wide receiver that can go up and make plays.

    Tight Ends:

    • The tight ends worked with Brian Niedermeyer on their first step in both run-blocking and pass-blocking. I didn’t see them catch any passes. After working as a unit off to the side, they joined the offensive line and continued to work on their blocking. Dominick Wood-Anderson was the first in line during reps and early-enrollee Jackson Lowe definitely looked the part.

    Offensive Line:

    • Many of the offensive linemen worked at multiple positions. Riley Locklear worked at both right guard and right tackle. Marcus Tatum worked at both tackle spots while Ryan Johnson worked at center and right guard.
    • Trey Smith looked on as his offensive line counterparts focused on technique and double-teams. It was evident that Tatum, Jahmir Johnson and Nathan Niehaus have all made strides in the weight room. Chance Hall and Tanner Antonutti were assisting the coaches and providing some pointers. Those two are no longer playing football due to medical reasons. Wanya Morris definitely looks the part, but you can also tell he has a ways to go to get in football shape. Jahmir Johnson received praise from Chaney during drills while he worked at left guard.

    General Observations:

    In Tee Martin’s first practice as the Vols’ wide receiver coach and passing game coordinator, he was very vocal during routes vs. air and when the wide receivers were working against the defensive backs. Jim Chaney was also vocal during routes vs. air, working with the quarterbacks. He also wandered over to the offensive line and was vocal as well. Chaney appears to be more of a head coach of the offense than a coordinator, as he walked around and kept an eye on all position groups rather than just one.