Saturday Spring Practice #4

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Tennessee sharpens passing game during fourth spring practice​

by Patrick Brown

Tennessee resumed spring ball with its fourth practice on Saturday morning, when the Vols remained indoors inside the Anderson Training Center after rain on Friday night left Haslam Field too slick to use. The Vols again were in shells (helmets and shoulder pads) as they practiced with hundreds of coaches in attendance for Tennessee’s annual coaching clinic and dozens of recruits on visits for the first weekend practice. The short media-viewing portion early in practice allowed for a close look at offensive line drills and routes-on-air work with the quarterbacks and wide receivers as Tennessee sharpened its passing game.

The Vols worked their usual route tree in the short and intermediate windows with wide receivers coach Kelsey Pope overseeing the side of the field with the slot receivers and one outside position.

You can check out some highlights from routes-on-air in the video above, which opens with some work with the offensive line.

Those O-line drills feature LSU transfer offensive tackle Lance Heard (No. 53) and young offensive linemen like redshirt freshmen Shamurad Umarov (No. 79) and Vysen Lang (No. 51) and freshmen Gage Ginther (No. 78) and Jesse Perry (No. 72).

The passing game work includes quarterbacks Nico Iamaleava (No. 8) and freshman Jake Merklinger (No. 12) and wide receivers Squirrel White (No. 10), Kaleb Webb (No. 84), Tulane transfer Chris Brazzell II (No. 11), freshman Braylon Staley (No. 14) and redshirt freshman Nate Spillman (No. 80).

 
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#3
#3
The only major injury note for Saturday was that running back Cam Seldon was not going through practice as he’s a bit banged up.
The quarterbacks did not appear to be as sharp and crisp this morning while the media was present through periods 0-2. Some of the throws were erratic at times, missing high or behind on skinny posts, slants, ins. We did think receiver Chris Brazzell had a better day today catching the football. He was getting some 1-on-1 attention from Kelsey Pope, who was reminding him to stay patient in his route running. The position coach was also praising him as well.
Freshman wideout Braylon Staley was running all over the place and making some more impressive catches out of the slot. His toughness is something that has stood out over the first week as staffers with pads are trying to knock the ball loose when receivers come down with a catch during individual.
Tight end Ethan Davis nearly pulled off an impressive one-handed catch during routes on air, but came up just short. The ball (from Nico) was a bit in front of him on the post and he went for it with one hand. Davis was frustrated with himself afterwards knowing he should have used two hands. Still, would have been a nice catch either way as it was not the best throw.
One note on Lance Heard is that his arms were too wide today when pulling and could have easily been called for a hold. Again, it’s spring practice and the time to correct these things.
Keenan Pili, though limited some this spring, he is leading the group of linebackers who are hungry to impressive new position coach William Inge. Jalen Smith has taken a step after finishing off the season strong in the fall and Kalib Perry is off to a good start this week. Wednesday will be big for that group to determine what the pecking order is moving forward.
e.cain

The same cast of characters were working to the side or limited on Saturday: Offensive linemen Javontez Spraggins, Andrej Karic, Brian Grant and Masai Reddick, wide receivers Bru McCoy and Nathan Leacock, safety Christian Charles, linebackers Elijah Herring and Arion Carter and running back Peyton Lewis.
Freshman cornerback Kaleb Beasley is the newest addition to the list after his injury in Thursday’s practice. We did not spot him out on the practice field, but like most injured players he will remain around the team, watching practices and sitting in meetings as he tries to make the most of the rest of the spring. Beasley suffered a fractured fibula, but should be back in time for summer workouts depending on how his recovery goes.
The Vols are going to play it carefully and pick their spots with Mays this spring and give his potential backups plenty of work. It’ll benefit those young players to have Mays to lean on as they continue to learn how to play the position in this offense. Mays is getting work of his own in practice, though, so there’s no real reason for concern.
Low snaps still looked to be an issue for Lang and Satterwhite during this one-on-one drill. It’s an adjustment for both players, who were not centers and predominantly played tackle in high school. Spring is a time to drill the basics, and being able to snap accurately, fire out of your stance and block a nose tackle right in your face in one fell swoop is an art that the Vols are trying to ingrain into those young linemen.
The first group in this drill had Lance Heard at left tackle, Dayne Davis at left guard, Jackson Lampley at right guard and John Campbell Jr. at right tackle. It’s an adjustment for Campbell this spring, but on one rep he looked like a natural pulling to his left instead of his right like he’s used to having started 21 games at left tackle at Miami and Tennessee the past two seasons. He let out an energetic yell at the point of contact on one of his reps.
Freshmen Gage Ginther and Jesse Perry continue to get plenty of work at left tackle. Ginther admitted after Saturday’s practice that he might not stay there too long and could wind up at right tackle or even guard, but the Colorado native, who’s up to 297 pounds after arriving at 280, is open to play wherever the Vols need him. Perry is learning a lot this spring as he comes in from the Wing-T offense he was part of in high school.
Redshirt freshman Shamurad Umarov continues to get work at left guard, which potentially will give him a shot in that competition down the road and at the least increase his versatility and flexibility. Another second-year lineman, Ayden Bussell, is getting second-team work at right guard. The absences of Spraggins and Karic are giving the Vols a chance to develop their young players and evaluate their depth this spring.
Outside of a just-missed connection with Squirrel White, Nico Iamaleava was really sharp. The quarterbacks did have some trouble with some near-hash throws on out routes as several passes were not completed. That’s where Iamaleava threw just wide of White and freshman Braylon Staley couldn’t complete a leaning catch on a pass he had to stretch for.
Transfer tight end Miles Kitselman might have had the best catch of the period, snaring a fastball thrown high on a slant pattern. Ethan Davis couldn’t make a one-handed catch on a similar throw. He and Holden Staes are athletic, big bodies and have the ability to give the Vols reliable targets at that position – it’s the run-blocking that will be the question for Davis and much of the adjustment process for Staes coming over from Notre Dame.
White and Kaleb Webb looked crisp on their routes and their experience in this offense shows up compared to a newcomer like Chris Brazzell II.
p.brown
 
#11
#11
Probably way too early in practices, and my just being impatient. Still, I've been expecting to see more about the guy named after the exiled to Babylon prophet, also sporting the surname of half of an old era Tampa Bay defensive duo. I hope he gets in shape and becomes a consistent terror for OLs throughout the coming season. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to get the dog and cracked crystal ball to make their joint game predictions. I've tried bribing Phantom with skinned goat shanks, and the polishing the ball. So far it isn't working.
 
#12
#12
Probably way too early in practices, and my just being impatient. Still, I've been expecting to see more about the guy named after the exiled to Babylon prophet, also sporting the surname of half of an old era Tampa Bay defensive duo. I hope he gets in shape and becomes a consistent terror for OLs throughout the coming season. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to get the dog and cracked crystal ball to make their joint game predictions. I've tried bribing Phantom with skinned goat shanks, and the polishing the ball. So far it isn't working.
You sound ready for the basketball game this evening
 
#13
#13
I’m looking forward to the day when Dayne Davis isn’t being listed 1st team.

He’s played a lot for us and I’m glad we have him but I want one of these young guys to shine and bust the starting lineup!
 
#15
#15
Cain: qbs were sloppy

Brown: Nico was really sharp

I get there is a difference in the two subjects, but more proof that idk if these guys watch the same practice.
Here's the reality, MSME, those guys watch with blinders on, and while wearing smoked tinted Prada sunglasses. Then they proceed to spectacularly speculate.

I just love helping my fellow Vols fans.
 
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#18
#18
I’m looking forward to the day when Dayne Davis isn’t being listed 1st team.

He’s played a lot for us and I’m glad we have him but I want one of these young guys to shine and bust the starting lineup!
I really struggle with statements like this. Would you actually be disappointed if Dayne Davis ends up as one of the best five linemen? If he is the better, why would you want anyone inferior to play. The younger linemen will get their chance to play. I can remember when it was considered a seriously bad sign when the younger players had to play. You wanted them to have at least a year to get in SEC shape before they had to take the field.
 
#21
#21
I’m looking forward to the day when Dayne Davis isn’t being listed 1st team.

He’s played a lot for us and I’m glad we have him but I want one of these young guys to shine and bust the starting lineup!
Wouldn’t stun me if we portal shop after spring for one OL and one DB.
 
#22
#22
Probably way too early in practices, and my just being impatient. Still, I've been expecting to see more about the guy named after the exiled to Babylon prophet, also sporting the surname of half of an old era Tampa Bay defensive duo. I hope he gets in shape and becomes a consistent terror for OLs throughout the coming season. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to get the dog and cracked crystal meth to make their joint game predictions. I've tried bribing Phantom with skinned goat shanks, and the polishing the ball. So far it isn't working.
FYP
 
#23
#23
Really hope we can develop some depth at center. We had struggles last year in games with Cooper. Ollie is a VFL and definitely played with intensity but he just seemed to be a tad slow coming off the snap and moving to block - got beat in several games (and got holding calls) and the inside pressure kills most plays.
 
#25
#25
OLine gonna be straight poopoo
Mays, Spraggins, and Campbell return. They made a huge upgrade from Mincey to Heard. They need to find a LG to replace Ollie Lane but have a lot of guys that are capable...including some talented former 4* recruits...and Lane was probably the weak link on the o-line. Mays is being limited to avoid injury and Spraggins is out while recovering. The young guys are going to get a lot of action this spring, so depth is going to be better in the fall. This o-line should be better in 2024 than 2023.
 

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