Spring Practice News and Notes (Updated)

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee news and links from the first days of spring practice.

Update

Fun and Games

Saturday's practice began with a series of goal-to-go one-on-ones from the eight yard line between wide receivers and defensive backs with the entire team watching. Five-star early enrollee wide receiver Josh Malone matched up against sophomore cornerback Malik Foreman on an route across the middle of the field, with Foreman knocking the ball away from an unprepared Malone. The next matchup featured junior college early enrollee WR Von Pearson against Freshman All-American CB Cam Sutton on a fade route to the end-zone. Pearson's shiftiness showed as he made a move off the line of scrimmage, and Sutton's speed was on display as he tried to catch up. Pearson's speed and body positioning prevented Sutton from making much of a play on the ball, and Pearson made a very nice over the should touchdown catch, much to the delight of the assembled offensive players. The final matchup of the day was a heavyweight battle between Freshman All-American WR Marquez North and much-maligned senior cornerback Justin Coleman on the same route as the previous pair. North used his size and speed to create separation from Coleman, but he failed to adjust to an underthrown ball, and Coleman undercut North for an interception. The defense gathered around Coleman and cheered before the rest of practice continued.

The following video showing the matchups is courtesy of the Knoxville News Sentinel:


Opening Defensive Depth Chart

Early enrollee cornerback Emmanuel Moseley showed his speed while paired with Cam Sutton on the first team defense on Saturday, with senior cornerback Justin Coleman working primarily at nickelback. With senior safety Brian Randolph expected to miss most of spring practice due to injury, sophomore Devaun Swafford moved from nickelback to the starting free safety position. According to Daniel Lewis at Nooga.com (full article with his observations from practice here: UT Practice Report), the starting defensive depth chart in the nickel package looks something like the following:

  • Defensive line: DE Corey Vereen, DT Danny O'Brien, DT Owen Williams (JUCO early enrollee), DE Jordan Williams
  • Linebackers: LB A.J. Johnson, LB Curt Maggitt
  • Defensive backfield: CB Cam Sutton, CB Emmanuel Moseley, nickelback Justin Coleman, strong safety LaDarrell McNeil, free safety Devaun Swafford

This lineup is likely to change extensively once the rest of the 2014 recruiting class arrives on campus for fall practice, especially at the defensive line (Barnett, Hendrix, Henderson, Mosley, Sawyers, Robertson) and defensive back (Kelly, Jr., McDowell, Gaulden) positions.

Introduction

Tennessee began spring practice at 4:20 PM ET on Friday at Haslam Field, and while the practice facility may not have been formless and empty, there was still a very definite air of creation. With both units on the line of scrimmage needing complete rebuilding jobs, offensive line coach Don Mahoney and defensive line coach Steve Stripling could be seen coaching basic technique and positioning to the raw athletes they have to mold into SEC-quality units. Meanwhile, across the field, wide receiver coach Zach Azzani and running back coach Robert Gillespie ran ball security and hands drill with newly improved positional groups. All practices are closed to the public, and the first chance for Vols' fans to see Team 118 live will be at the Orange and White Game, at 3:00 PM ET on April 12th, at Neyland Stadium.

Practice Reviews

  • Evan Woodbery at GoVolsXtra has a video and photo gallery (GVX) from Friday's practice. A few of his observations from head coach Butch Jones' press conference: center Mack Crowder is leading the offensive line; Marlin Lane is "practicing like a senior should"; despite missing all of last year with a knee injury, Curt Maggitt is the unquestioned team leader; and, Von Pearson is starting out at the slot receiver position vacated by Pig Howard, but he will line up all over the field. Read more at: Woodbery: What We Learned Day 1 (GVX).
  • Daniel Lewis at Nooga.com has a review of Friday's practice, including the starting lineup for the first practice on offense: QB Justin Worley; RB Marlin Lane; WRs Marquez North, Jason Croom, and Von Pearson; OL Dontavis Blair, Marcus Jackson, Mack Crowder, Kyler Kerbyson, and Coleman Thomas; and TE Ethan Wolf. Read more at: Lewis: UT Practice Review (Nooga.com).
  • The post-practice press conference with coach Jones can be found here: Butch Jones Post Practice Comments (GVX). Jones praised the intensity of Friday's practice, but noted that it's easy to be intense on day one, with so many more to go. He singled out Curt Maggitt, Marlin Lane, and Mack Crowder for praise as practice leaders. When asked about players fielding kicks, he noted that catching punts and kicks is "an art" and said that he planned to try out players to find a difference maker.

Positional News and Notes

  • After spending last year at the slot receiver position, Devrin Young is now listed at the running back position and practiced there most of the day.
  • Multiple players fielded kicks during special teams practice, including cornerback Cam Sutton, cornerback and early enrollee D'Andre Payne, and running back and early enrollee Jalen Hurd.
  • Early enrollee athlete Neiko Creamer practiced with the linebackers.
  • Wide receiver Drae Bowles, WR Ryan Jenkins, tight end A.J. Branisel, TE Brendan Downs, defensive tackle Trevarris Saulsberry, and safety Brian Randolph won’t participate in spring practice due to injury.
  • Wide receiver Pig Howard will not participate in spring practice due to unnamed personal matters, but remains enrolled in school and on the roster (not unlike Marlin Lane last year).
  • Defensive tackle Greg Clark is no longer with the program.
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