Tennessee football returned to Haslam Field Tuesday morning for its fifth spring practice. The Vols had a handful of players limited by injuries but were mostly healthy as they work into the heart of spring practice.
Three period of Tennessee’s practice were open to the media Tuesday meaning we got to watch about the first 20 minutes which included some stretching at the start. So per usual, only so many conclusions one could draw.
Here’s our notes and observations from Tennessee’s fifth spring practice.
Let’s start with who was limited by injuries. Bru McCoy did not participate as has been the case all spring to date. McCoy had a big cast on his arm. Fellow receiver Dont’e Thornton was fully dressed out but working to the side while going through routes on air. Jabari Small was in his jersey only, not wearing shoulder pads or a helmet while working off to the side and not going through drills with his teammates. Freshman running back Cameron Seldon was in a red non contact jersey but was going through drills. Freshman tight end Ethan Davis joined Seldon in a red non contact jersey.
Let’s move to routes on air where Joe Milton III looked very crisp and polished Tuesday morning. Tennessee started by throwing lots of short, touch routes and Milton looked good there completing all of his passes. The senior kept it up as they moved to longer throws and was mostly passing to Chas Nimrod, Ramel Keyton and Squirrel White.
After struggling in routes on air last week, Nico Iamaleava looked better Tuesday morning. A number of Iamaleava passes still hit the ground including one set of reps where he really struggled, but he was definitely more consistent and completed more passes than he did last week. Iamaleava got plenty of work in with freshman receiver Nathan Leacock and redshirt freshman Kaleb Webb.
Jacob Warren coached up Ethan Davis after the freshman tight end sat down at the wrong spot on an underneath route, causing quarterback Gaston Moore to hold on to the ball and not fire off a pass.
Jaylen Wright is bigger this spring and looks like a complete running back. With Small sidelined for at least part of the spring, Wright can move his way up the depth chart and set himself up for more playing time this fall. Certainly his ability to consistently protect the ball will be a major factor there.
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Freshmen defensive lineman Nathan Robinson and Daevin Hobbs were both not fully dressed out, wearing no shoulder pads or an helmet as they worked off to the side during practice. The same was the case for reserve defensive linemen Isaac Green and Amari McNeil. Defensive backs Brandon Turnage and De’Shawn Rucker were in the same boat while Warren Burrell was in a red non contact jersey.
The defensive backs did a handful of dummy tackling drills but spent the majority of the open portion of practice walking through coverages and different handoffs with defensive backs mimicking receiving route trees. That allowed Turnage and Rucker to go through some of the drills as they ironed things out.
Defensive backs coach Willie Martinez was providing some hard coaching for redshirt freshman safety Christian Harrison as Tennessee went through some dummy tackling drills.
BYU transfer linebacker Keenan Pili is a strong looking athlete and looked well adjusted to his new gig in Knoxville. Sophomore linebacker Elijah Herring also looked up a few pounds from last fall. I’m fascinated to see how the athletic linebacker develops ahead of this fall.
Defensive lineman Dominic Bailey is off to a strong start to the spring and looks like one of the Vols’ better defensive linemen. Bailey had a large role last season but could be in store for an even larger one this fall.
Early enrollee freshman Caleb Herring is an incredibly impressive looking player. The Murfreesboro native needs to add some weight especially in his lower half but he is tall with long arms and extremely athletic. Herring looks like a potential contributor early this fall.