After scrimmaging inside Neyland Stadium Tuesday and not practicing Wednesday, Tennessee returned to Haslam Field Thursday morning for its ninth practice of fall camp.
The media watched its usual 20ish minutes on a gloomy Knoxville morning as work on the practice field followed a familiar rhythm.
Here’s out notes and observations from Tennessee’s ninth practice of fall camp.
Bru McCoy was back in full pads and practicing during the open portion of practice. McCoy missed or was limited in the last few days before returning Thursday.
McCoy worked in a similar spot on routes on air, towards the back of the wide receiver line but with Hendon Hooker throwing to him. The Southern Cal transfer had one bad drop over the middle before hauling in a Hooker deep ball in his next rep.
In fact, more passes hit the ground Thursday morning than maybe any other routes on air portion of fall camp. Jalin Hyatt couldn’t haul in a deep ball, Hooker overshot Tillman and Charlie Browder dropped a comeback route on the sideline on top of other drops.
It was not an overly crisp day for Tennessee’s quarterbacks and receivers.
Walker Merrill did make the catch of the period, hauling in a Joe Milton III deep ball while keeping his feet in bounds on a pass that drug him right to the sidelines.
McCoy’s eligibility and progress will certainly play a factor, but Merrill has had a strong first 10 days of fall camp. The sophomore receiver has put himself in a position to earn playing time at the season’s offset.
Freshman receiver Squirrel White was in his normal white jersey but working off to the side Thursday.
Jaylen Wright did more running back drill work than I’ve seen in the first eight days of practice. Wright didn’t work off to the side and participated in drills with the rest of the running back room— though he participated in a slightly moderated version of one drill.
A full offseason in the weight room seemed to be really beneficial for Wright. Wright’s speed isn’t a question and the North Carolina native added to his thin frame this offseason. Despite a minor injuring limiting him for much of camp, I think Wright will be Tennessee’s No. 2 running back.
Tennessee’s tight ends worked with the Vols’ quarterbacks in routes on air. The reps order stayed the same with Jacob Warren leading the way followed by Princeton Fant, Miles Campbell and Charlie Browder.
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Kamal Hadden was absent from practice once again after not participating in Tennessee’s scrimmage Tuesday. Christian Harrison joined Hadden in being absent from the open portion of practice. The freshman safety was in a red non contact jersey Monday— the last time we watched the Vols’ practice.
Cheyenne LaBruzza remained in a red non contact jersey as he has for much of fall practice.
Tennessee’s safeties and corners were separated throughout the open portion of practice. The corners worked on man-t0-man coverage for a large period of the viewing portion. Defensive back’s coach Willie Martinez gave sophomore De’Shawn Rucker some extra instruction following one of his reps.
While Tennessee preached wanting to move guys around in the secondary at the start of fall practice, the Vols haven’t mixed up who’s working with the corners and who’s working with the safeties much in the first nine days. At least while we have been watching.
Solon Page III was working to the side in his normal orange practice jersey. With Page sidelined, Jeremy Banks and Juwan Mitchell repped together to open drills followed by Aaron Beasley and Kwauze Garland.
Business as usual for the defensive line who worked on drills throughout the viewing portion of practice. Freshman James Pearce was guilty of angering Rodney Garner, not showing appropriate effort in a rep before having to redo it.
In a fun note, outside linebackers coach Mike Ekeler nailed the crossbar from the 30-yard line in the indoor practice facility as the Vols made their way out to Haslam Field.