By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports
Practice 3 for the University of Tennessee’s football team was held indoors after it was originally scheduled to be a fully open practice for the media and the fans. Due to storms that rolled through Knoxville, practice was moved to the indoor facility. The media was thus allowed to take-in a few early periods.
Before practice, we had the opportunity to talk with 11 UT players for Media Day.
Below are some of my observations from practice 3 for UT and some standout points from our player interviews in my blog, Vince’s View.
-First off, it was nice to be even closer to the players and see some position groups that are typically on fields fairly far away from our viewing areas
-A different (and welcomed) drill we were able to see was a competitive defensive back vs. wide receiver press coverage drill. Not surprisingly, head coach Jeremy Pruitt was right on top of the drill looking on closely.
-In that drill, especially, true freshman CB Warren Burrell looked fantastic. The 6’0 Suwanee, Georgia product displayed super-quick feet, change of direction, anticipation, physicality and speed. He was glued to two of UT’s best receivers…Marquez Callaway and Josh Palmer.
-With freshman Jerrod Means moving from WR to CB and DBs Deangelo Gibbs (Georgia transfer that will not be eligible this season per Pruitt) and Maleik Gray moved back to WR, that brings the scholarship DB total to 17. That’s a lot of bodies. It shows that Pruitt is still looking for answers behind starting CBs Bryce Thompson and Alontae Taylor, for the short term and long term.
-DB Baylen Buchanan (starter at the “Star” DB position last season, is being held back from full practice for a few weeks per Pruitt. UT will often be in nickel and dime coverages, the third and fourth CB spots are open for the taking. For those reasons, and because of how he’s already built on a nice spring practice, Warren Burrell has as good a chance to earn a spot to play as anyone else. Since he was an early enrollee and because Pruitt has shown a willingness to put a freshman on the field in the secondary, if they can do the best job, you could see him on the field.
-When pointing out players, like Burrell, I go by what I see live first, listen to what coaches say to them (especially compliments) then study video afterwards. Sometimes you can see and hear the same thing in all aspects. Other times, you notice different things in each. Point being, for me, it’s more than just a random naming of players for the sake of getting fans fired-up, so they’ll share my post. I don’t operate like that. I give my neutral opinion, good/bad/indifferent.
-Sophomore CB Alontae Taylor and redshirt senior WR Jauan Jennings had some fun, spirited, physical match-ups during the Sunday practice
-I think QB Jarrett Guarantano has thrown the ball pretty well early in camp. He looks like he’s slightly dialed back throwing the ball really hard in exchange for a tighter delivery that looks more focused on accuracy via improved footwork and mechanics.
-The young QBs…RS Fr JT Shrout and true Fr Brian Maurer have displayed strong arms. They both have clear arm talent. Both have had erratic moments with accuracy during our viewing periods, but nothing alarming. Young QBs (and Guarantano had some of this) often sling it around in practice with fastballs, so they sometimes miss on throws.
-More so after watching the first three practices, I’m pretty confident that if Michigan transfer DL Aubrey Solomon is ruled eligible, he’ll start at DE for this team that’s still searching for difference makers on the d-line
-OG K’Rojhn Calbert is a physical hoss. In my opinion, he’s the frontrunner to start at RG, especially if there’s no Trey Smith playing on the line.
-I honestly expected to be more impressed by JJ Peterson than I have been. Maybe, that will happen when the pads come on (Pruitt said that happens with some players while others that looked good without pads will go away and not play,) but to this point it hasn’t happened. He looks in better shape, but he’s just blended in. That level of talent should jump out at you like Quavaris Crouch does as a true freshman. Considering what happened with him last year, no one should be more motivated to seize an opportunity to be a star than JJ Peterson.
-Sitting next to starting TE Dominick Wood-Anderson for an interview, it validated what I saw on the practice field…he’s bigger, stronger and confident
-LB Daniel Bituli on true freshman LB Roman Harrison…(head shake) “He’s an athlete. He can do anything.” Harrison looks strong. He’s been working with the outside linebackers when we’ve seen him. He played on the d-line in high school, so he will have pass rushing skills from that position, which will be a big part of that spot.
–Jarrett Guarantano on what he wants to accomplish this season… “I want to be the best quarterback in the country and I want to win a lot of games.”
Find more of my broadcasting work at VinceSports.net.