The Tennessee Volunteers had their third scrimmage of the fall camp today, and I was fortunate to be able to attend the first half of it. Home Sweet Home of Gate 21 has a terrific summary of the practice, and I highly encourage you to go and read his observations on the day. Here are a few of mine in addition to his.
- Crompton is the man. It's not official, obviously, and Kiffin hasn't said anything to this effect yet. Still, it's hard to think otherwise as Crompton has always held the edge since the first day of spring practice - even over BJ Coleman. It was in the tea leaves last week just as it was in the spring. And if I'm wrong, I'll post that in no uncertain terms as quickly as I can. (Just remember that Wednesdays are busy days for me.)
- Bryce Brown projects to be something special. Kiffin referred to him as at 85% on the day, but he was still strong enough to drive the pile forward for several yards on multiple occasions, and quick enough to bounce to the outside for a touchdown on a goal-line rush when the middle was stuffed.
- Nu'Keese will be special, so long as he relaxes. Nuke had some problems catching punts; I'm certainly not the expert, but it appeared to me that he anticipated running before he had the ball. If he can focus on getting his techniques down right, his natural skills will do the rest.
- You will love the new running game. What really stood out to me was how confident the first step of the linemen appeared to be. They really look like they know what they're doing - a statement that, before last year, I would have taken for granted.
- Eddie Gran is making a difference. Yes, there were the blocked punts (and near-blocks). I didn't have a timer and I don't know if the kickers were too slow, the rushers too fast, or the blockers not effective enough. But I do know that some of the punts that did get out cleanly were kicked higher than I had ever seen them kicked by these kickers before - by a considerable margin. We'll have to wait until our units aren't facing each other to really gauge progress, but there are a few things (like hang time) that point to positive training.
- Don't read too much into the lack of a deep passing game. People are keying in on the fact that long passes are not very common yet, but we have to remember the injuries to our wide receiver corps. The deep threat currently resides in freshmen like Nu'Keese Richardson and Marsalis Teague, and they will emerge as they continue to learn the playbook. Deep passes aren't fully in place at the moment, but things look to improve over time.
- Today did not tell us who the starting center will be. Because Jonathan Crompton and Josh McNeil were typically paired together (as were Nick Stephens and Cody Sullins), it was important to see how the vice versa pairings worked. The center/quarterback relationship has to be solid, even if one of the normal starters is injured. Sullins was matched with the ones in the first half, and McNeil had the ones in the second half. Kiffin and Cregg now have tape with both centers working with the ones, as well as with both quarterbacks. They will decide the #1 center this week.
- Relax and enjoy the carnage. The defense is very, very good. I wish I had been smart enough to pay more attention to the linebackers, as they are my only concern. But the line is going to shred Western Kentucky, and most likely UCLA. So long as they don't suffer injuries in those first two games, they might give Florida a good run.