KNOXVILLE – Through six spring sessions, the theme of practice for the coaches has been teaching the players how to practice.
That includes teaching effort, focus, tempo and maturity. With spring break, and a week off of practice, up next, that maturity is going to be tested in a new way.
“You just have to challenge them,” said receivers coach Zach Azzanni. “If they want to be a great player, they’re going to have to get up on the beach and run. They have to eat four or five meals a day. We’re teaching them how to be big-timers right now, how to be pros. They don’t how to do that right now.
“If they don’t do that, when they come back, we’ll be able to tell who went on spring break.”
With 15 spring practice sessions available per NCAA rules, the school schedule forced the staff to wrap spring practice around spring break. Thursday was the final of six pre-spring break sessions and there will be nine left when they return, beginning on April 2.
“If they go out and don’t do anything, that tells us about their level of commitment,” said defensive coordinator John Jancek. “It’s going to be a test for the maturity of our football team.”
Injuries/absences: Defensive back Eric Gordon was not practicing for the third straight session, though he was seen on the sideline walking around in street clothes.
Running back Tom Smith had a non-contact jersey on. True freshman safety Jalen Reeves-Maybin (shoulder) was in attendance paying attention to drills, but had no pads on.
Depth chart update: There’s still no official depth chart, and the lineups change almost daily, but here’s an update on what a rough depth chart might look like at this point in the spring based on what’s been seen in practice.
QB: 1. Justin Worley 2. Nathan Peterman
RB: 1. Rajion Neal 2. Marlin Lane
WR: 1. Cody Blanc 2. Vincent Dallas
WR: 1. Jacob Carter 2. Jason Croom
Slot WR: 1. Devrin Young 2. Pig Howard
TE: 1. Brendan Downs 2. Alex Ellis/Justin King *Justin Meredith is limited with injury
LT: 1. Tiny Richardson 2. Marques Pair *Richardson is limited with injury
LG: 1. Alex Bullard 2. Marcus Jackson
C: 1. James Stone 2. Mack Crowder
RG: 1. Zach Fulton 2. Kyler Kerbyson
RT: 1. Ja’Wuan James 2. Alan Posey
DE: 1. Marlon Walls 2. Corey Miller
DE: 1. Jacques Smith 2. Jordan Williams
DT: 1. Daniel McCullers 2. Danny O’Brien
DT: 1. Daniel Hood 2. Trevarris Saulsberry *Maurice Couch out with injury
LB: 1. A.J. Johnson 2. Christian Harris
LB: 1. Dontavis Sapp 2. Brent Brewer *Curt Maggitt out with injury
CB: 1. Riyahd Jones 2. Naz Oliver *Daniel Gray out with injury
CB: 1. Justin Coleman 2. Lemond Johnson
NB: 1. Jaron Toney *Eric Gordon currently away from team
S: 1. Brian Randolph 2. LaDarrell McNeil
S: 1. Byron Moore 2. Geraldo Orta
• True freshman wide receiver Paul Harris was donning No. 91 on Wednesday instead of his normal No. 1. “Paul wasn’t playing worthy of a No. 1,” Azzanni said after practice. “Around here, we reward achievement, it’s kind of a little jab at him that he needs to play faster.”
• Coach Butch Jones was very active on the microphone, calling out players and yelling instructions. “Fighting for blades of grass,” was the motto of the day.
• Redshirt freshman running back Alden Hill had a tough day during pass protection drills. He was run around and run over multiple times. Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian did say he’s had some nice runs in practice, though.
Daniel Lewis covers University of Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga