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.
It was another hot and muggy day in Knoxville, but today marked the first day in full pads for the Vols during fall camp. All of Tennessee’s full participants were in full gear today, and the intensity was upped accordingly.
Managing editor Nathanael Rutherford and staff writer Ben McKee observed practice today. Here are their notes and observations from Wednesday’s practice, the first in full pads for Tennessee this fall.
- First things first: Senior defensive lineman Emmit Gooden wasn’t on the practice field. We expect to get full confirmation from Jeremy Pruitt after practice, but it’s expected that Gooden suffered a season-ending injury during Tuesday’s practice.
- On the good news front, linebacker JJ Peterson had a better session of practice during the open portion today. He was very engaged, energetic, and didn’t seem to have any issues with his conditioning today despite it being very muggy and only partly cloudy.
- On the other hand, freshman defensive lineman Elijah Simmons had some issues today. The heat got to him, and he had to bail out of a defensive line drill for a bit as he gathered himself. So far, Simmons has shown some good power and pep in drills, so I wouldn’t take away too much from this. He hasn’t had any glaring issues in the open portions of fall camp thus far.
- When the team gets in pads, that’s when people start to separate themselves from others. On the defensive line, that appears to be the case even with Gooden’s absence. Matthew Butler and Aubrey Solomon continue to look like potential starters, and I was pleased by what I saw from Greg Emerson today and what I’ve seen from him so far in fall camp. If he’s fully recovered and set to go, I think he could be a solid contributor this season. Tennessee needs him to be, that’s for sure.
- At outside linebacker, it continues to be Darrell Taylor and Deandre Johnson looking like the two main guys. I think you could start to see some jockeying for position on the depth chart in the coming days, but I’d be surprised if Johnson isn’t the main guy alongside Taylor at this point. But we’re still pretty early on in fall camp, so obviously a lot can happen between now and August 31st.
- Jordan Allen was not on the practice field today.
- Tracy Rocker was very vocal today, as usual. He wasn’t letting his defensive linemen dawdle around, and he asked for a quicker pace a couple times during the open portion.
- On the other side of the ball, Brian Niedermeyer was extremely vocal with his tight end group during the last open portion of practice. It was most noticeable when the tight ends were working on blocking against one another.
I didn’t spend as much time today watching the quarterbacks and wide receivers as I have in the first four practices. Instead, I spent the majority of the open portion watching the offensive line and tight ends.
With Jim Chaney and Phillip Fulmer watching, Tennessee’s O-line had an up-and-down day. The group spent a good amount of time working on run blocking drills. Chaney was getting after several members of the offensive line, encouraging them to take the intensity to another notch.
The biggest takeaway from watching the offensive line surrounded Trey Smith. The junior offensive lineman continues to participate in more and more contact during drills as each day passes. It’s still very light contact, but he’s doing a little more each day.
From left to right, the first five through the five-man drills were Wanya Morris, Trey Smith, Brandon Kennedy, K’Rojhn Calbert, and Marcus Tatum. Second through the line was Jahmir Johnson, Riley Locklear, Ryan Johnson, Parker Ball, and Darnell Wright.
Third through the drill was Jarious Abercrombie at left tackle, Jerome Carvin at left guard, Jackson Lampley at center, Locklear at right guard, and Dayne Davis at right tackle. Locklear received reps at left guard, center, and right guard.
Nathan Niehaus was nowhere to be found.
At tight end, the group worked on pulling behind the offensive line and striking a linebacker. Dominick Wood-Anderson was first in line as expected. Jacob Warren, Princeton Fant, Andrew Craig, Sean Brown, Jackson Lowe, Hunter Salmon, and Austin Pope followed Wood-Anderson, in that order.
Tight ends coach Brian Niedermeyer continues to harp on the importance of blocking throughout the open portion. Niedermeyer is consistently getting after the young ones as they prepare them for the season.
As for the running backs, they went through drills with David Johnson. The most noticeable observation was that Jeremy Banks was back at practice after missing Tuesday’s session.
The quarterbacks and wide receivers spent time working on routes in the end zone. Fades, slants, posts, etc. From what I did see, very few balls hit the ground, and Jarrett Guarantano was directing everyone.
For the first time this camp, I ventured over to the defensive side of the ball and watched the inside linebackers as Kevin Sherrer worked them through drills with an emphasis of hitting the correct gap.
The first inside linebacker tandem was Daniel Bituli and Will Ignont, followed by Henry To’oto’o and J.J. Peterson – who has had much better practices the previous two days. Solon Page and Deontae Beauchamp were third through the lineup.
For whatever reason, Shannon Reid was the last to go through drills.
Ignont and Bituli continue to look good during the open portion of fall camp.