Spring Practice: Strap It Up

Marquez: Anything you can do, I can do better. - Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

An update on the first practices in pads during the spring, with news and notes from around the Vol network.

What is this we're talking about now?

The Vols practiced in pads for the first time on Tuesday, had Wednesday off, and returned to practice indoors on Thursday in Knoxville, as Haslam field was still soaked from the previous day.

Has anything awesome happened that might get me excited for the season?

Oh, you mean like one of our highly touted wide receiver recruits making a ridiculous one-handed catch from our unseen but continuously hyped redshirt freshman quarterback?

Then yes.

Video courtesy of UTSports.com:

What happened at practice on Tuesday?

Tennessee practiced in pads for the first time, and as everyone except Butch Jones anticipated, the players took some time to shake the rust off. Coach Jones singled out early enrollee tight end Daniel Helm for praise (he and fellow tight end Ethan Wolf are running with the first team because of injuries), but was generally unimpressed with the leadership and lack of focus showed by the rest of the team.

Practice reviews from around the Vol Internet:

  • Evan Woodbery over at the Knoxville News Sentinel has a video and picture gallery from Tuesday's practice. He notes that early enrollee cornerback Emmanuel Moseley continues to play across from Cam Sutton at cornerback, with senior cornerback Justin Coleman practicing only at the nickelback position. Fellow early enrollee D'Andre Payne is playing with the second team at cornerback. Read Evan's full piece at: Evan Woodbery: Practice Day 3 (GoVolsXtra).
  • Football Time in Tennessee has news and notes with a different image gallery. See more at: FT: Vol Spring Practice Report.
  • Dave Hooker at Tennessee Sports Radio has some good quotes from offensive lineman Kyler Kerbyson about the competition for playing time on the rebuilding offensive line. He noticed senior Devrin Young practicing with both the wide receivers and the running backs, and found time to talk to sophomore wide receiver Jason Croom about his return from injury. Read more at: TSR: Quick Hits from Tuesday's Practice.
  • Fellow Tennessee Sports Radio personality (and interesting twitter follow: @VolRumorMill) Houston Kress names his standout performers from spring practice so far with previously mentioned wide receiver/superhero Pearson, cornerback Moseley, and tight ends Wolf and Helm all earning recognition.  Fellow early enrollee JUCO defensive tackle Owen Williams was all but unblockable on Tuesday, earning praise from defensive line coach Steve Stripling and the ire of the offensive line. For returning players, wide receiver Jason Croom was playing "like a monster" according to wide receiver coach Zach Azzani, and linebackers Curt Maggitt, A.J. Johnson, and Jalen Reeves-Maybin all looked faster, stronger, and more dangerous, although Coach Jones continued to demand more from Johnson. Read all of Kress' take at: TSR: Practice Standouts.
  • Daniel Lewis at Nooga.com has a more in-depth look at the linebacker A.J. Johnson with quotes from Johnson and Coach Jones. Read his excellent piece at: UT Practice Notebook.

We're talking 'bout practice?! Don't you have anything else I can read?

Settle down, Allen, of course we do.

  • First up would be the in-depth interview Randy Moore at Inside Tennessee did with sophomore wide receiver Josh Smith. In it, we learn more about how upset Smith was with his late season drops (VERY) and how determined he is to make up for mistakes he feels hurt the team (VERY). It's worth a read to find out more about everyone's favorite local kid: Scout.com: No Drop Zone.
  • Second, prepare yourself for QB1 equivocating, as Reed Carringer at Football Time in Tennessee addresses reader email in a mailbag column. I'd say that the question is premature, but the Vanderbilt NICU won't release it for another few days, at least. FT: Midweek Mailbag.

Okay, I feel better now. What happened on Thursday?

Well, Von Pearson made an amazing one-handed catch, but you know all about that already. Coach Jones praised the increased focus and energy level of the second practice in pads, with the defense reportedly winning the team period.

  • Reed Carringer at Football Time in Tennessee has news and notes from Thursday's practice, including quotes from wide receiver coach Zach Azzani on Von Pearson's amazing athleticism. Spoiler alert: Pearson is awesome, but still needs work to reach his potential. Full story at: FT: Thursday Spring Practice Report.
  • Andrew Darrago at Tennessee Sports Radio has a completely different practice report, with a few interesting notes: senior running back Marlin Lane was absent from practice; interceptions were a continuing problem as the quarterbacks struggled to play consistently; and, early enrollee tight end Daniel Helm and defensive tackle Owen Williams continue to make big plays on offense and defense. Expect both to have a role this fall, despite increased competition. TSR: Spring Report Practice 4.

What's next up?

Well, men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball, and softball are all entering critical parts of the season, with the bouncy Vols getting ready for the SEC (men) and NCAA (women) tournaments, so expect plenty of coverage. Because people seemed to like them, updated visual depth charts will appear in a few days, and an interview with Brad Shepard on the rebuilding offensive and defensive lines is still in the hopper.

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