Tennessee’s linebackers working during fall camp. Photo by RTI.
Tennessee football hit the Haslam Practice Field Tuesday morning for its seventh fall practice. Ahead of its first scrimmage of fall camp, the Vols were back in shells Wednesday for what’s expected to be a shorter practice.
The media got to watch the first three period of practice, roughly 20 minutes, so as always there’s only so many takeaways to gather.
Here’s our notes and observations from practice the Vols’ seventh fall practice.
Tennessee was much closer to full strength on the offensive side of the ball Wednesday. Some of its top receivers have been in-and-out of the open portion of practices over the last few days but that wasn’t the case. Bru McCoy, Squirrel White and Dont’e Thornton were all fully dressed out and full participants during the routes on air portion of practice.
Center Cooper Mays was not out there for the open portion of practice for the third straight day. The senior is extremely important to Tennessee’s offensive line and his absence early in camp adds an emphasis to the need to find his back up.
As we noted Tuesday, Ollie Lane— who appears to be the favorite to start at left guard— slid to first team center during drills with Texas transfer Andrej Karic working at left guard beside John Campbell. I’m curious if Karic is truly the second option at left guard or if redshirt freshman Addison Nichols would challenge him there if he weren’t also getting extended reps at center.
Tennessee worked in the red zone during the routes on air portion of practice. The Vols started just inside the 20-yard line for the first two rotations before moving just inside the 10-yard line for the ensuing open portions of practice.
It wasn’t a very sharp routes on air session Wednesday. Not that it was horrible but there were more balls hitting the ground than a normal. Kaleb Webb, Chas Nimrod and Emmanuel Okoye all had drops. It’s still clearly an adjustment for Okoye on the offensive side of the ball. The freshman tight end has steadily improved his pass catching over the first week of practice but still doesn’t look super fluid or comfortable doing so.
While it wasn’t a super efficient routes on air day, Joe Milton III and Tennessee’s starting receivers were still in a solid rhythm with less incompletions from them than any other group.
The play of the open period was redshirt senior receiver Michael Bittner hauling in a one-handed catch from Gaston Moore on a fade route.
Before Tennessee made it out to the Haslam Practice Field, the Vols’ quarterbacks and running backs worked on the speed option inside the Anderson Training Center. They were crisp during the drill.
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The defensive injury update is similar to the last few days with one additional important name. Veteran defensive backs Wesley Walker and Tamarion McDonald were both fully dressed out but remained in the indoor facility to work off to the side while the rest of the defense moved outside.
Same was the case for Arizona State defensive tackle Omarr Norman-Lott. Rodney Garner called Norman-Lott an “upgrade” Tuesday and he’s an impressive looking player. Him staying inside to work was the first sign of injury from him during camp.
Sophomore safety Jourdan Thomas was completely absent from the open portions of practice.
One room that remains completely healthy for Tennessee is inside linebacker where Aaron Beasley, Keenan Pili, Elijah Herring and Arion Carter have been full-go all camp. That group worked on some pass defense basics and catching interceptions. Somewhat surprisingly there were very few drops from the group.
Tennessee’s corners practiced against stack formations and handoffs. One note there is that sophomore Christian Harrison was working with the corners during the drills. Entering his second year in the Tennessee program, I’ve only ever seen Harrison work with the safeties.
Defensive backs coach Willie Martinez was providing him some extra instruction between reps. We’ll continue to monitor where Harrison works the rest of fall camp.