Disclaimer: The media only gets to see three or four open periods of practice at a time, which is approximately 12-15 minutes of a nearly two-hour practice. Please take all of our notes and observations with a grain of salt considering we, and every other media member, only get to see a small portion of practice.
After taking a day off on Monday, Tennessee was back on the practice field on Tuesday afternoon for their fourth session of fall camp. It was another hot and humid day in Knoxville, and the players handled the heat well.
Managing editor Nathanael Rutherford watched the defense while staff writer Ben McKee kept his eye on the Vols’ offense.
Here are our notes and observations from Tuesday’s session of fall camp.
- There were a few NFL scouts in attendance for today’s practice. I didn’t get to patrol the offensive sidelines, but there was a scout from the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons over watching the linebackers and secondary that I saw.
- Nigel Warrior looked really good at safety today, both with his play and in his leadership. He was praised by Pruitt for tracking the ball well on an interception drill, and he brought in the ball with ease. That’s been an issue with Warrior in his UT career, so any improvement in that area would be good news for UT’s secondary. He was also vocal with the group and was asking for feedback from the younger players when they were being quiet.
- Trevon Flowers looks fully recovered from his injury from last season and moves really well. He also tracked the ball well in the same drill as Warrior, and I think he’ll be the other starting safety alongside Warrior unless someone makes a really big jump over the next few weeks.
- J.J. Peterson looked better today. He wasn’t scolded by Kevin Sherrer any today, and he looked more energized and smoother in his movements. Athletically, he’s always been gifted and has what it takes to be an SEC linebacker. Conditioning has been his issue. Today, that looked better.
- Tennessee really needs Aubrey Solomon eligible this season. Not only because it gives them another talented player at a unit with a lot of questions, but because he truly looks like one of the best defensive linemen on the roster from what little we get to see during the open portion of practice. He’s quick on his feet, is explosive off his planting foot, and is very strong. If he’s eligible, I fully expect he’ll be a starter.
- Savion Williams is adjusting to life in the SEC, at least as far as practice is concerned. I don’t think he’s in over his head or is “drowning” per se, but you can tell that even with the high work ethic he has and the work he put in during his stint in junior college that he wasn’t used to practicing the way Jeremy Pruitt and his staff want to practice. He’s looking fine during drills and everything, but Tracy Rocker is riding him a little hard, and that’s going to pay off. At least it should.
- Roman Harrison doesn’t just have photoshoot muscles; his strength is for real. He has good reach with his long arms, and those arms pack a huge punch on the blocking sleds. He should be able to work his way into a pass rushing rotation this fall, or at the very least he’ll see some solid special teams work.
- I didn’t watch a ton of the offensive work today, but what I did see was Maleik Gray and Deangelo Gibbs both make nice snags on deep routes.
- Jim Chaney was very, very vocal today. He had a few choice words in the fourth period today when the tight ends began working with the offensive line. Chaney’s speciality is the offensive line and tight ends, and you can tell he’s very much a perfectionist there. He was emphasizing attacking and owning the line of scrimmage while yelling at the group. Will Friend was with another part of the offensive line at that time.
Tennessee senior guard Lamonte Turner of the men’s basketball team was in attendance today. On the football side of things, Jarrett Guarantano had his best outing during the open portions of practice so far. One ball hit the ground, and it wasn’t necessarily Guarantano’s fault. Josh Palmer was running a slant, stumbled, and as he was stumbling, the ball went through his hands.
The one aspect of routes-versus-air in which the quarterbacks and wide receivers struggled was the deep ball. Two of Guarantano’s deep throws hit the ground as they fell out of the reach of Josh Palmer and Jauan Jennings. The coaches were quick to get on to the veteran receivers. Maliek Gray did make an impressive tumbling catch.
Aside from the deep ball, however, it was a nice crisp throwing session for the most part. Tyler Byrd in particular made a nice catch in addition to Gray’s catch. Guarantano hit Jennings with a pretty throw down the sideline, and Brandon Johnson continues to impress.
Johnson particularly looked good when the wide receivers and defensive backs teamed up to face off. With an emphasis on releases, Johnson punched Kenneth George Jr. in the chest and beat him pretty bad. Byrd also had a really good rep against freshman Jerrod Means.
Cedric Tillman continues to look impressive during the open portion of practice. His body definitely went through an overhaul over the offseason, and he seems to be reaping the benefits of that.
Jennings, Jordan Murphy, and Jacquez Jones worked in the slot.
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney worked exclusively with the offensive line and tight ends during the three periods we saw.
Today’s offensive line consisted of Jahmir Johnson at left tackle, Trey Smith at left guard, Brandon Kennedy at center, K’Rojhn Calbert at right guard, and Marcus Tatum at right tackle. Second through the drill, from left to right, was Wanya Morris, Riley Locklear, Ryan Johnson, Nathan Niehaus, and Darnell Wright.
In addition, Jarious Abercrombie worked at left tackle and Jerome Carvin worked at left guard.
The plan remains the same for Trey Smith through four practices. Smith is the first left guard up during non-contact drills, but he doesn’t go through contact drills.
As for the tight ends, they continue to work through blocking drills with tight ends coach Brian Niedermeyer. Going two at a time, the first rotation through the drill was Dominick Wood-Anderson and Jacob Warren. Princeton Fant and Andrew Craig were second through the line, and then Hunter Salmon and Jackson Lowe were third through. Austin Pope and Sean Brown were last through the drill.
The running backs stayed off in the corner as usual. They worked on tosses to begin practice with the quarterbacks and then worked on keeping their shoulder pads low as they ran under a hurdle.