Tennessee was back out on the practice field on Wednesday afternoon. They were in full pads for Wednesday’s practice, and the weather was nearly perfect with the skies partly cloudy and the temperature right around 70 degrees.
Managing editor Nathanael Rutherford and staff writer Ben McKee share their notes and observations from the Vols’ Wednesday practice session.
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- Jeremy Pruitt began Wednesday’s practice working with the Vols’ defensive linemen along with Tracy Rocker. He was very vocal in his instruction and was getting onto the linemen who weren’t following through properly on their pass rushing drills, and he was giving very specific instructions on technique. After that, he moved over to the inside linebackers and instructed them to be more explosive and worked on some technique with them as well. He ended up going over to the secondary for the rest of the open portion of practice.
- I was particularly impressed by Aubrey Solomon, Daniel Bituli, and Will Ignont on the defensive end today. Those three are all players the Vols need to step up in 2019, especially Solomon if he’s able to get his waiver cleared by the NCAA to play immediately this season.
- Both Quavaris Crouch and Bitilu stuck with the inside linebackers today for the whole time the media was outside. On Monday, both those players moved over to the outside linebacker unit after a couple periods. Today, they stayed with one unit.
- J.J. Peterson continues to improve, but he’s not as high up on the depth chart (in my opinion) as some probably anticipated. I wouldn’t worry about that too much, but he definitely still has work to do from a technical standpoint and from a standpoint of learning the defensive playbook and concepts.
- Deandre Johnson seems to have improved his consistency some from last year, though it’s still a bit of a problem. But I like some of the early returns from him at the outside linebacker spot right now.
- Alontae Taylor and Bryce Thompson continue to be the alpha dogs of the cornerback room. Baylen Buchanan didn’t run through drills today that I got to see. He did do a 40-yard dash and some sprints and was fully suited up in his pads and everything, so I don’t think there’s anything to worry about there.
Jim Chaney spent nearly all of the open portion working with the offensive line. The big nasties up front worked on individual blocking drills before working on double-teams. Jahmir Johnson continues to look the part, as does Nathan Niehaus. Wanya Morris doesn’t look out of place as some freshman do and has really eliminated some of the body fat he arrived on campus with.
The team was in full pads once again, but the offensive line worked by itself during the open portion, so there wasn’t too much to take away. Johnson received reps at left tackle, while Jerome Carvin worked at left guard. Wanya Morris also worked at left tackle with Ryan Johnson at left guard during tandem drills. On the right side, Nathan Niehaus worked with K’Rojhn Calbert.
Brian Niedermeyer continued to bring a lot of energy while coaching the tight ends. Jeremy Pruitt prefers his tight ends to be able to block first, catch passes second, and that’s evident in how the tight ends go about the early portions of practice.
With Dominick Wood-Anderson being the first in line of every drill, the tight ends worked with the sleds to begin practice. The emphasis of hand placement when working with the sled was apparent. After working with the sleds, the tight ends made their way over to the other side of the field where they continued to work on blocking drills.
As for the running backs, we didn’t see a ton from the group as they were on the opposite side of the field. They opened the viewing portion working with the quarterbacks on handoffs and then worked on catching passes out of the backfield. There weren’t a whole lot of footballs that hit the ground.
After the quarterbacks worked with the running backs, they worked on the deep ball with the wide receivers. Jarrett Guarantano looked good throwing the ball, hitting multiple guys in stride. As for JT Shrout and Brian Maurer, the two made some nice throws, but they were also inaccurate with the football at times, either leading a wide receiver too far or not keeping the football in bounds and giving the receiver a chance to go up and make a play.
The quarterbacks and wide receivers also worked on some post-routes to the sideline, crossing routes, and hitches. Guarantano was fairly accurate on these passes once again, while Shrout and Maurer continued to be inconsistent.
Deangelo Gibbs continues to look like a wide receiver, though you can tell he’s new to the position at times as well. On one throw, he made a ridiculous one-handed catch on the sideline after not coming out of his route all that clean at the top of the route.
Jauan Jennings continues to work in the slot while Marquez Callaway and Josh Palmer continue to work on the outside. Jennings looks comfortable in the slot, and at his size, should be a comfortable target for Guarantano. The trio of receivers continue to look good in practice.
Jordan Murphy did drop a pass, though he looked fluid in his routes.
Before working with the quarterbacks, the receivers worked with Tee Martin on breaking off the top of their route and coming back to the football. Martin led the way as the quarterbacks and receivers worked on routes vs. air.