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Observations from Tennessee football spring practice #2

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Here are some of my observations, notes and opinions from Tennessee football spring practice #2 (Saturday, March 8, 2014). The media was able to view 4 periods at this morning’s practice after stretching.

I’ll be posting post-practice blogs and interviews on this page throughout spring practice, so please share and tell your friends and co-workers.

Practice 2
Butch Jones repeatedly told the team in stretching: “get loose…we’re going to start fast.”

Butch Jones wanted some one-on-one competition to start the practice, so he called for wide receivers and corners to battle on red zone routes and throws. He called out each of these guys on the wireless microphone.

First up was WR Josh Malone vs. CB Malik Foreman…
Malone ran a post but Foreman read the route, had good coverage and broke the pass up. Win - Foreman

Second up was WR Von Pearson vs. CB Cameron Sutton…
Pearson ran a fade to the corner of the endzone. He got separation on Sutton and made a nice catch in-bounds for a would-be TD. Win – Pearson

Third up was WR Marquez North vs. CB Justin Coleman...
North also ran a fade to the back corner of the endzone, but Coleman had a little better coverage. This pass wasn’t as far in-bounds and was knocked away. Win – Coleman

When the cornerbacks got the win, the defense ran to him and celebrated. The offense did the same with Von Pearson. Those are the types of drills we like to see. Competition drills in game settings are fun to watch. Butch Jones called for more of these one-on-one battles later on in practice as well.

I know the normal thing is to not jump-the-gun and make declarartions too soon based on a few no-pads workouts. However, JUCO WR Von Pearson looks flat-out special. He catches everything, softly and naturally. He has great top-end speed. He's big and physical. I could go on.

Some of us in the media were able to see some coaching film highlights that were showing inside the training facility. Every play involving Von Pearson re-affirms that belief. He caught one deep ball pass about 30 yards down the field on the right sideline. He adjusted to the ball, and made the catch. Then, near the sideline, one-on-one against Cameron Sutton, he put a sick inside cut on Sutton that collapsed him. Pearson then raced to the endzone for a TD. It was impressive. He is going to be an instant impact big-play receiver. Fans should be excited about the prospect of 2 receivers like North and Pearson. Josh Malone will be very good as well but Pearson is older and ready-to-go.

We saw the placekickers attempt field goals in normal formation with extra-long pads acting as leaping 7-feet tall defensive linemen to encourage getting the kicks up. George Bullock and Derrick Brodus saw most of the kicks. Both were better from short range but neither was impressive or consistent. Bullock clearly has the stronger leg, but accuracy is his deal. Bullock missed four straight from 44 yards out, all the same way. Each was wide right, and even though they had the distance, he looked like he got under each kick.

We’ll have more next week on the News Sentinel Sports Page, weekdays 10am - Noon on The Sports Animal!

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