KNOXVILLE – Tennessee returned to the practice field Tuesday for practice No. 8 after a three-day break from the football field. The Vols were in full pads and practiced outside on a crisp, 58-degree morning.
– Cornerback Prentiss Waggner (shoulder), wide receiver Justin Hunter (ACL), defensive tackle Daniel Hood (shoulder), linebacker/safety Brent Brewer (ACL), linebacker Curt Maggitt (shoulder) and defensive back Geraldo Orta (shoulder) all wore red, non-contact jerseys and participated on a limited basis.
– Running back Alden Hill was not in pads and was an observer.
– Guard Zach Fulton made a full return after missing most of the first two weeks with a stress fracture in his foot suffered during offseason workouts. He had some extra wrapping around his right ankle and foot.
– Defensive tackle Maurice Couch (concussion) was in uniform but not taking part in drills during the open portion of practice.
– Tight end Justin Meredith (hamstring) continues to be held out of drills as he works with trainers on the side.
Depth chart/position notes
-It’s premature to declare him as an unquestioned starter, but Rajion Neal took the first-team reps at running back Tuesday. Neal was the top performer in Friday’s scrimmage with 15 carries for 100 yards.
– Fulton worked with the second-team offense at right guard in his first full day back in practice. James Stone continued to work as the starting right guard.
-The defense mixed and matched its secondary when lined up as a complete unit. The first group to take the field was Izauea Lanier and Justin Coleman at cornerback matched with Brian Randolph and Byron Moore at safety. The second group was Marsalis Teague and Prentiss Waggner at corner with Rod Wilks and Brent Brewer at safety.
-Greg Clark was getting the first look at nose tackle with Couch sidelined.
– Former running back Jaron Toney will work at nickelback the rest of the spring. The former walk-on from Alcoa, Tenn., had 31 carries for 74 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2011.
Three open practice observations
1. The quarterbacks participated in a drill that addressed footwork and throwing on the run. They navigated around assistant coaches simulating offensive linemen being pushed into the backfield while keeping their eyes down the field and getting a throw off.
2. The running backs’ emphasis was pass blocking. Derek Dooley joined running backs coach Jay Graham in leading a drill in which the backs battled rushing linebackers one-on-one. Neal struggled a few times and got several extra pointers from Graham and Dooley. Tom Smith and Marlin Lane appeared more natural at it.
3. Former defensive lineman Malik Jackson was at practice getting some extra conditioning as he prepares for the NFL draft. Jackson is noticeably bigger than last season. He weighed in at 284 pounds at the NFL combine after weighing around 270 pounds as a senior. He was running side-by-side with Meredith as the freshman tight end rehabbed a hamstring injury.
“We were running six 300s that day and we were on the last one and I heard a pop. I guess big men aren’t really meant to run 1,000 yards.” – Guard Zach Fulton on how he suffered a stress fracture in his foot.