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Tennessee hit the Haslam Practice Field to begin the second spring practice of head coach Josh Heupel’s tenure in Knoxville.
Working in just helmets and no pads, quarterback’s Tayven Jackson and Navy Shuler made their Tennessee practice debut with the media being able to catch a glimpse.
After losing a number of key leaders from last season’s team — particularly on defense — the start of spring practice gives Heupel an opportunity to see who can step up in those roles.
“Just a year further in that growth and development, trust, communication, respect between players and coaches,” Heupel said. “You could see that today. There’s a ton of great teaching out on the practice field today. That was from coaches to players, but you saw a lot more from player to player, too. In the first quarter of our offseason, it’ll be an emphasis as we continue to go through this lead up to kickoff this season. It’s always a part of our program, developing leaders, giving them opportunities to grow in those roles, and growing our young players from the ground up as (they) first hit the campus.”
A handful of Vols won’t be available in spring practice due to injury including four defensive backs — Warren Burrell, DeShawn Rucker, Brandon Turnage and Kamal Hadden.
That makes the defensive back room an incredibly thin position group for the Vols this spring.
“The player loads on those guys every single day, you need to track what they are doing, you make sure if guys are having to double back on reps that you are giving them the proper amount of time to rest in between so they can go out and play and compete,” Heupel said. “At this point, we are not worried about cutting any of the reps that we normally would have. We feel like, at this point, we are in a position to continue to get the reps that we wanted.”
The second-year head coach also discussed the growth of his running back room, new receiver’s coach Kelsey Pope and more.