Tennessee football took to Haslam Practice Field on a brisk Monday morning to open up the third week of spring practice.
The Vols have a pair of practices this week before their second scrimmage of the fall Thursday morning. Tennessee is less than two weeks away from the Orange-and-White game on April 15.
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 can draw.
Here’s our notes and observations from Tennessee’s eighth spring practice.
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Let’s start with roll call. It’s a long long list of Vols that were at the most limited participants on both sides of the field Monday but particularly offensively.
Freshman tight end Ethan Davis, senior receiver Ramel Keyton and sophomore receiver Chas Nimrod were not on the practice field during the open portions of Tennessee’s practice. Squirrel White and Cooper Mays were in shells and were working off to the side while their teammates went through drills. The same was the case, as it has been all spring, for running back Jabari Small. Bru McCoy was out on the field providing instruction as he’s out the entire spring. Lastly, freshman running back Cameron Seldon was in a red non contact jersey as has been par for the course as of late.
Oregon transfer receiver Dont’e Thornton was back on the practice field, giving it a full-go after missing some time the first two weeks of spring practice. Thornton looked good running routes in the red zone while his size and speed continues to jump off the page.
Joe Milton III has been crisp for most of spring practice while Nico Iamaleava has slowly gotten into the groove of things. But it was Milton who struggled during routes on air Monday morning while Iamaleava was accurate and particularly impressive showing off his arm strength on throws to the sideline.
Milton was not throwing to the guys he usually does which could have led to some of his inconsistencies as potential starting receivers White, McCoy and Keyton didn’t go through the routes on air period.
With Mays working to the side, Tennessee’s offensive line spent an abundance of time working on snapping the football. Sophomore Addison Nichols and Texas transfer Andrej Karic got the most work at center but basically any interior offensive lineman practice snapping the ball Monday.
With Small and Seldon both limited, there was an abundance of work for all of Tennessee’s healthy running backs as there’s been all fall. I continue to like what I see from local freshman DeSean Bishop. Whether he can carve out a real role this season is to be determined but the late addition to the Vols’ 2023 recruiting class definitely looks like he belongs.
There were more players out on the offensive side of ball than the defense but there’s still plenty of players who were out. Freshman defensive linemen Daevin Hobbs and Nathan Robinson were not in full pads and limited participants at practice. The same was the case for cornerback De’Shawn Rucker and linebacker Aaron Beasley. Warren Burrell and Kwauze Garland were in red non contact jerseys and BYU linebacker transfer Keenan Pili was absent at practice.
The more I watch Arion Carter and Elijah Herring the more I think the duo will find playing time this fall. The sophomore Herring being in the two deep would be no surprise but Carter could easily find himself there as a true freshman too.
Tennessee’s safeties and cornerbacks were split up during the entirety of the open portion of practice. Christian Charles continues to work with the safeties after spending last season at corner. Charles’ ceiling is much higher at safety than corner in my opinion. I’ll be curious to see what he does this season if he can stay healthy throughout the spring and fall and build some continuity and confidence.
Sticking with the safeties, Tamarion McDonald was coaching up Christian Harrison after a rep Monday morning. Veterans giving tips to younger players has been a common site all spring especially with the injured Bru McCoy.
At corner, it was coverage fundamentals work Monday. Freshmen Jordan Matthews and Rickey Gibson both are really good looking athletes. I’ll be curious to see if either can make an impact more than special teams this fall.
Lastly, there was a ton of recruits at Monday’s practice as spring break season continues throughout the country.