Tennessee was back on the practice field on Saturday afternoon, and it was a muggy and sunny day. The heat was an early test for some of the Vols’ players, and the RTI team was out on the practice field to give you the latest updates.
Managing editor Nathanael Rutherford observed the Vols’ defensive players while staff writer Ben McKee kept his eye on Tennessee’s offense. You can check out our notes from the first day of Tennessee’s fall camp here. Now, here are our notes and observations from the Vols’ second day of fall camp.
- JJ Peterson had a rough day today. I don’t want to get into specifics, but the open portion of practice that we got to view wasn’t his best practice. That’s discouraging for the Vols, because they need him to contribute this season. It’s only the second day of fall camp, which is both a good thing and a bad thing for him. It’s good because it gives him plenty of time to bounce back, but it’s also bad because he shouldn’t be struggling like this so early into practice. Conditioning still appears to be an issue with him.
- I was impressed by what I saw from Henry To’oto’o in terms of his lateral movement and fluidity in space. He seems to be one of the most athletic linebackers on the roster, and it looks like he’s already picking things up fairly well.
- Matthew Butler is carving out a solid role on the defensive line, though he was instructed by Tracy Rocker to run through a drill again after not meeting the standard the first time through. He and Emmit Gooden are having a good start to fall camp.
- Greg Emerson could be a name to keep an eye on, though I want to see him once the team gets in pads. He looks mobile and recovered fully from his leg injury in his senior season of high school. If he can develop into a role player this year, that would be a major plus to UT’s defensive line.
- Right now, the Vols seem to have a set trio at outside linebacker. Darrell Taylor is for sure the top guy, and both Deandre Johnson and Kivon Bennett are firmly in the No. 2 spot and battling.
- Quavaris Crouch continued to work with the outside linebackers today, and I’m impressed by his blend of strength and speed. A guy as bulky as he is shouldn’t be able to move as quickly as he does, but he has the ability to get around the corner much faster than you’d expect. He’s explosive.
- Jaylen McCollough continues to get run not only at safety, but at STAR as well. He and Tyus Fields are two freshman I would highlight on the roster as a fan. Both of those defensive backs have the tools necessary to contribute right away this season in a variety of ways in the secondary and on special teams.
- Theo Jackson might surprise some people this year on defense if early indications from the first couple days of fall camp mean anything. Again, we don’t get to see a great deal at practice, so take this with a grain of salt. But he looks firmly in the mix at safety.
At offensive line on day No. 2, the players went through the normal drills with the first lineup, from left to right, consisting of Wanya Morris, Trey Smith, Brandon Kennedy, Jerome Carvin, and Marcus Tatum. The second group to go through drills was Jahmir Johnson, Trey Smith, Ryan Johnson, K’Rojhn Calbert, and Darnell Wright.
Smith was the only player to work at left guard during the open portion of practice, which was the case yesterday as well. This wouldn’t be the case during the closed portion of practice, though, as Smith is not participating in contact drills. Wright and Niehaus also worked at guard, but it was at right guard. Carvin did receive some reps at left guard when going through some of the drills.
The O-line worked on tandem blocks both with a tackle and a guard or a guard and a center. Then the tackles also worked with the tight ends.
The quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers all worked together at the beginning of practice. They worked on the jet-sweep, and then after the wide receivers departed to work on blocking with Tee Martin, the quarterbacks and running backs worked on handoffs and tosses.
As is the case every practice, the tight ends were not seen catching passes during the open portion. The group worked with coach Brian Niedermeyer on the sleds, two at a time. Dominick Wood-Anderson and Princeton Fant were the first tandem through the drill, followed by Austin Pope and Jacob Warren. Then it was Andrew Craig and Jackson Lowe before Hunter Salmon and Sean Brown rounded out the group.
In routes vs. air, plenty of footballs hit the ground today. It was both the fault of the quarterbacks and wide receivers. That’s expected, however, considering it’s just the second day of fall practice. As fall camp progresses, the number of balls hitting the ground should drop.
The primary emphasis for the wide receivers through the drills was on their releases and selling the go-route on particular routes. Maleik Gray made a couple of nice catches, as did Brandon Johnson. Marquez Callaway and Josh Palmer looked good as is the case nearly every practice.
Jauan Jennings made a couple of nice snags, but there were also times where you could tell his knee injury was hampering him. Deangelo Gibbs continued to work with the receivers.
All three quarterbacks throw a pretty ball, but again, it’s during routes vs. air. Jarrett Guarantano is the clear starter, but JT Shrout and Brian Maurer consistently flash. Their biggest issue at the moment is simply being consistent with their overall game.
Aside from the basic throws, the quarterbacks worked on bootleg throws as well as read-options while the receivers ran slants.