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Tennessee football practice observations & notes (Aug. 1)

Tennessee Volunteers football practice (Aug. 1, 2014)
Tennessee Volunteers football practice (Aug. 1, 2014)
Vince Ferrara - Examiner.com/WNML Knoxville

Practice 1 (August 1)

Tennessee Volunteers WR Jason Croom
Vince Ferrara - Examiner.com/WNML Knoxville

There was full attendance at practice today. WR Alton Howard and the 18 newcomers that finished-up the 32-player 2014 signing class all participated.

Here’s how the FIRST TEAM defense looked in just one drill during our viewing period. Keep in mind; it is not unusual for players to move around between units within a practice.

DEs: Curt Maggitt & Corey Vereen

DTs: Danny O’Brien & Jordan Williams

LBs: A.J. Johnson & Jalen Reeves-Maybin

Nickel: Justin Coleman

CBs: Cam Sutton & Emmanuel Moseley

Ss: Brian Randolph & Devaun Swofford

Other notables in that drill: LB-Dillon Bates (2nd team); S-LaDarrell McNeil (2nd team); DT-Trevarris Saulsberry (3rd team); S-Rashaan Gaulden (3rd team); Todd Kelly Jr. (3rd team)

Punt Returners (in no particular order)

Alton Howard

D’Andre Payne

Josh Malone

Evan Berry

Devrin Young

Von Pearson

Jacob Carter

Vic Wharton

Kick Returners

Vic Wharton

Cam Sutton

Adrian Gamble

Butch Jones’ recruiting and strength program continue to be evident on the practice field. There are more big, physical, athletic players that look SEC-caliber on this team than I’ve seen on any other UT team covering the Vols locally since 2010.

Joshua Dobbs was very inaccurate during all the drills I saw him in our eight viewing periods. I personally saw him sail at least six passes well-high of the intended receivers. He missed on various types of routes as well: deep outs, quick outs, seem routes, etc. Butch Jones said after practice that the coaches chart all passes that hit the ground in each practice. That number combines errant throws and dropped passes. He said the great teams he’s been around had 18 to 20 balls hit the ground in one practice. Butch Jones said the QBs and receivers had 62 passes hit the ground at today's practice! I think the receivers looked pretty good today. That ball-on-the-ground stat was much more about the quarterbacks' accuracy in my opinion.

Boy, Dillon Bates looks the part. I’ve been on the record for a while saying I think he’ll start the opener. Butch Jones pointed him out after practice. He said that every time he looks for Bates, he’s sitting next to A.J. Johnson trying to learn from him. Bates weighs 232 pounds, and is very athletic.

Butch Jones said the lone injury from the first practice was junior WR Cody Blanc. Blanc was in crutches after practice. The specific injury or extent was not known by Butch Jones yet. They'll know more after they run tests to further evaluate the injury.

My radio colleague Jimmy Hyams offered a few thoughts on his observations of UT practice as well.

In Tennessee's first practice, Justin Worley threw the ball more accurately than Josh Dobbs. Most of Dobbs' misses were overthrows.

I thought the running backs caught the ball well in their pass routes. The athletic ability of the new young receivers is evident.

Tennessee worked about 8 or 9 guys on punt returns. You can tell they have a lot of athletes from which to choose from.

I thought Dontavius Blair looked much better. He looked in better shape than he did last spring when he struggled to make it through a practice.

I talked to Marlin Lane, and he said that he would like to improve his per-carry average to 6 yards. He has averaged at least 5.3 yards each of the last two years.

It's also evident at practice that Tennessee has more team speed. How many of those young, faster guys get on the field will be determined by how quickly they learn the system.

Butch Jones said he was relatively pleased with the retention rate of the players and their conditioning after day 1 of practice.