By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports
Here are my observations, notes and opinions on Tennessee football fall practice 3 on Sunday at Neyland Stadium for Fan Day.
My blog here on SportsRadioWNML.com, Vince’s View, is driven by Oak Ridge Nissan.
-There was a lot to digest and go back and study from Sunday’s open practice at Neyland Stadium. I will limit them to just some of the biggest takeaways and then I’ll share some more specifics throughout the rest of preseason practices.
-As Jeremy Pruitt told us before the practice, there’s been some good and some not so good with the quarterbacks. I thought as a group, they were good not great. They definitely weren’t as consistent as the coaches want.
-Redshirt sophomore QB Jarrett Guarantano had some good throws down the field, like a deep ball TD to Josh Palmer, a 30-yard seem route to Jordan Murphy, some slants and a few sideline routes. Guarantano has more arm strength and elusiveness than Chryst. When decisive, he can get the ball out to the perimeter in a hurry. He was also picked off by freshman CB Alontae Taylor, threw one deep ball to Brandon Johnson too much on a line that was well incomplete, he sailed some throws and had some completions that were high throws, which I’ve also seen in the first two practices. Guarantano looks more confident and decisive than a season ago, but the massive progression does not appear to be there yet, albeit very early in practice.
-Redshirt senior QB Keller Chryst was a little more accurate than Guarantano I thought. He hits more guys in stride on crossing routes and checkdowns. The numbers were likely very similar, but the spot of the throws is where Chryst was sharper. He had a pretty deep ball TD pass to walk-on Brent McPherson that was dropped in the bucket where only the receiver could get it. There were rough moments for him too. He also was picked-off by freshman CB Alontae Taylor. Baylen Buchanan nearly picked Chryst off on an errant throw to the outside on nearly an identical pass as the INT. Chryst has nice poise under pressure and didn’t take as many chances with the ball. There were numerous times, in 7-on-7, where he didn’t see an open receiver, tucked it and ran.
-Sophomore QB Will McBride and true freshman JT Shrout had some nice throws and some struggles. Shrout has the stronger arm, I think, but McBride was the more accurate of the two. Both were like the older two QBs, ok but inconsistent.
-The coaches are judging the quarterbacks on much more than what we see from our vantage point. They’re looking for them to make the proper reads, see the right open receivers, make smart decisions, get them into the right plays, make teammates better, show proper fundamentals in footwork and arm release, etc. Guarantano saw the most work with the 1s. I didn’t see much to help or hurt that.
-I loved what I saw from JUCO summer enroll TE Dominick Wood-Anderson. He received plenty of first-team offense work and caught everything. He’s exactly what we expected, a big guy with size and excellent hands. There were a few times when Eli Wolf lined-up at FB with Wood-Anderson at TE.
-It’s easy to see why Jeremy Pruitt likes true freshman Alontae Taylor so much. He took just about every snap at left cornerback with the first team. Even on passes completed against him, he had great coverage, just didn’t get his head around in time. He plays fearless, confident and is the big corner that Pruitt covets. I’d pencil (not pen yet) him in at a starting corner spot.
–Darrin Kirkland Jr and Quart’e Sapp rotated in and out of the first team at one ILB spot while LBs Daniel Bituli, Darrell Taylor and Jonathan Kongbo were regulars with the first group. Kongbo and Taylor don’t look out of place at their new OLB positions. They’ve looked mobile at a lighter weight and still get to put their hands down in a 4-down front. Bituli was very active, slicing through traffic to make tackles and rushing the passer.
-The three defensive linemen on the first unit were LDE Alexis Johnson, NG Shy Tuttle and RDE Kyle Phillips. In 4-DL fronts, Johnson and Tuttle were often the tackles with Taylor or Kongbo joining Phillips at DE.
-The first unit offensive line was LT Drew Richmond, LG Ryan Johnson, C Brandon Kennedy, RG Riley Locklear and RT Marcus Tatum. I thought the offensive line struggled overall. Trey Smith did not participate in team drills, but did practice position drills.
-The OL struggles mean some positives for the defense. This looks like an improved, more competitive unit. What I liked a lot is how much they communicate loudly pre-snap. They switched from a 3-down front to a 4-down look pre-snap at least once. Although, far from perfect, the defense looks more confident and intense.
-I thought the RBs pretty looked good. The three returning backs from last year, Ty Chandler, Tim Jordan and Trey Coleman all broke nice runs in 11-on-11. Chandler caught a check-down in the middle and made a defender whiff on a sick juke move. The new RB additions, redshirt senior Madre London and freshman Jeremy Banks, are big backs (something Pruitt likes) that played some in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11, but seemingly not quite as much as the returners.
-Overall, the team was on the field for more than two hours in front of the fans, followed by an autograph session. It was hot, but clouds without rain helped the cause just a skoosh. Barring injuries, it was an excellent day of work for the team, the fans and the little ole media.
-Watch some footage from Practice 3 here
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