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Tennessee football spring practice #6 analysis, notes & quotes

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Here’s some news and notes from Tennessee football spring practice #6 (Tuesday, March 25, 2014).

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 6
This was the first practice back after spring break. Due to the snow flurries (ridiculous for late March,) cold and wind, the team practiced indoors.

The players will certainly be sore from their bodies adjusting to returning to the physicality of UT’s practices. This is a good test for the coaches to find out who continued to workout during spring break and who did nothing. Butch Jones, as you might expect was in full throat with a very high level of energy.

We saw 7 periods today. The drills were position and individual drills during our media period, so it was far from the informative situational scrimmage we saw at Neyland Stadium for the last practice.

We saw the defense work on blitzing and coverages. We continue to see Curt Maggitt with his hand down at defensive end working on pass rush formations and technique. He's still a linebacker but they plan to use him as a rush defensive end as well. He's a rare potential playmaker on this defense as we sit today in spring practice. They will rely on him a lot, and need him to be even better than he was two years ago.

Offensively, Marlin Lane was back on the practice field today. He had his left wrist heavily wrapped for protection. He wasn’t in a non-contact green jersey. Lane did all the individual drills we saw in our viewing period. He carries the ball with his right hand, so he was able to do many of the drills normally. Butch Jones said after practice that Lane was limited some.

Jalen Hurd continues to catch your eye with his size in pads when you stand close to him, as I had an opportunity to do. He is impressive. Hurd did drop one pass in a RB pass-catching drill, but that hasn’t been a regular occurrence to this point.

The quarterbacks all looked very similar. We didn’t see the best drills for anyone to separate from the others. The QBs worked a lot on getting rid of the football on a screen pass with pressure in their face, and throwing above the rusher with accuracy. This may have been the most interesting drill I saw today.

Butch Jones was zeroed-in on the QBs a lot today. In fact, after practice he talked about spending extra time evaluating the quarterbacks. "I did. I sat in on all the quarterback meetings today. I liked their note taking, I checked all their notes, and I liked that process. We are going to be patient; we are going to find out who we can win with. It is a long process, with spring football, summer and then into August and we are going to do our due diligence every day. But I did like the mentality of that group today and I liked their approach on Monday as well."

I will say this, besides having the strongest arm; Riley Ferguson has the quickest release of any of the quarterbacks. He gets rid of the ball quick, which is huge for a QB.

One player that looked sharp and explosive today in route running and contact drills was true freshman wide receiver Josh Malone. Butch Jones made a point to single out Malone for his impressive practice. He said Malone is playing fast, and is really starting to play with confidence. He said they’re seeing the speed, burst and acceleration that they saw on film when they were recruiting him. The coaches are starting to see that on the practice field now according to Butch Jones.

Here are a few quotes from Vols head football coach Butch Jones after practice. He shared his thoughts on how Tuesday’s practice went, how practices have gone to this point and team speed.

Butch Jones
"We spoke prior to spring break that I thought the maturity of our football team would show coming back," said Jones. "Overall I did like our mental approach but also it was very glaring that some individuals are more mature than others. Some individuals prepared more than individuals coming back but I thought it was a very productive practice and probably our most physical practice so far since we've been back."

"I was not pleased with the first five practices especially the scrimmage in terms of our overall style of play in which we're going to play football here at Tennessee but every opportunity is a teaching moment," he said. "Today had many teaching moments. We concluded practice with a live team period and then we graded our position groups on the field if we had loafs and not playing our style."

"Today I did like our approach," he said. "I thought our practice was demanding and we'll continue to demand and demand even more as spring ball progresses."

"Effort, intensity. It starts in the classroom; we talk about the mental effort, the mentality intensity by which it takes by which you approach your meetings, the notes, taking copious notes. Everything that goes into being a great football player."

"Work in progress. We have to get much faster as a defense and as a football program. We are not up to SEC speed. So it starts with recruiting, it starts with being bigger, stronger, faster. You have to play chess; you can't play checkers, you to play chess. It is getting your players in the right spots and if they have value in one regard or another it is trying to extract as much value as you can in your football program."

You can get more on UT and the SEC at @VinceSports on Twitter or on the radio show I host, the News Sentinel Sports Page, weekdays 10am - Noon on The Sports Animal, SportsAnimal99.com or on the WNML app!

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