After its first day without practice of fall camp, Tennessee took the practice field Saturday morning with a noticeable pep in its step.
It was business as usual at Haslam Field as practice was open to the media for just under 20 minutes and the Vols did their normal drill work in their last day before putting on full pads.
Here’s our notes and observations from Tennessee’s fifth fall practice.
Things with the offense were the same as they’ve been the first few days of practice. Jaylen Wright was in the normal white jersey but did some drill work off to the side from the rest of the running backs.
The running back group looks different with Lyn-J Dixon practicing for the second time. Adding a fifth scholarship running back will be huge for depth and Dixon looks like a player that could earn a real role this season.
Nothing too noteworthy out of the offensive line Saturday. There likely won’t be for much of camp with only one starting spot open and Glen Elarbee’s group doing drill work while practice is open.
Nevertheless, things get kicked up a gear for that group on Sunday when they put on full pads.
The quarterbacks and receivers continue to look crisp and it’s easy to see they worked together often this summer. Same ole, same ole as far as reps. Cedric Tillman, Ramel Keyton and Jalin Hyatt in the first group with Jimmy Holliday, Jimmy Calloway and Walker Merrill in the second group.
Bru McCoy stayed near the very bottom in rep order but one sign was tangible proof that that would change. Instead of McCoy catching passes from Gaston Moore or Navy Shuler — who were throwing to the receivers in line around McCoy — Hooker jumped back to the front to throw to the USC transfer.
Speaking of Hooker, the fifth-year senior was very vocal during the open portion of practice on Saturday.
Freshmen Kaleb Webb and Squirrel White impressed me with the crispness of their route running.
I didn’t watch every throw of routes on air as I made my way from the defensive side of the field to the offense, but I only saw one ball hit the ground — Merrill dropping a Milton pass.
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Tennessee’s defensive linemen broke the team huddle and ran to drill work with high energy. It took two reps for freshman Jordan Phillips to anger Rodney Garner with his effort on a drill.
While practicing inside, Tennessee’s defensive position groups did circuit drill work, meaning the defensive backs did a pass rush drill with Garner. Freshman corner Christian Harrison earned Garner’s ire by not securing the tackle while they worked on stripping the quarterback.
The linebacker work continues to be heavy on the fundamentals with today being largely about gap assignment. Assistant coaches and graduate assistants ran read options or triple options in slow motion while the linebackers walked to their correct gap.
Juwan Mitchell was paired with Aaron Beasley while Jermey Banks was paired with Solon Page III.
Christian Charles and Cheyenne LaBruzza remained in their red non contact jerseys and Kamal Hadden was absent again as the defensive backs worked on tackling and footwork on Saturday.