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October 15, 2013Repeated challenges to amp up the early intensity level, illustrated by three-straight "circle of life" battles that featured junior college tight end Woody Quinn, marked Tennessee's return to Haslam Field on Tuesday.
The Vols host ninth-ranked South Carolina Saturday at noon inside Neyland Stadium, with ESPN handling the broadcast, and first-year head coach Butch Jones made certain his team got the immediate message about practicing with a purpose for the Gamecocks.
Jones noted an NFL scout from the Pittsburgh Steelers was at practice to see "Dontavis Sapp," but then chided junior linebacker A.J. Johnson that the now-defunct Pittsburgh Gladiators, who began as an arena football team, were interested in seeing Johnson, because that old league didn't require four downs of defense.
Other individual battles in the early portions of practice featured: Jacques Smith vs. Ja'Wuan James, Malik Brown vs. Kyler Kerbyson, Marlon Walls vs. Marcus Jackson, Jason Croom vs. Riyahd Jones, among other matchups. Kendall Vickers also was challenged, with the head coach informing via his microphone that "Vickers was a South Carolina commit, just so you know." Curt Maggitt, still wearing Jadeveon Clowney's No. 7 jersey, also won a battle in the circle drill.
The Vols also worked one-on-one passing drills Paul Harris vs. Michael Williams, Jason Croom vs. Riyahd Jones and slot wideout Johnathon Johnson, the only wideout to catch a pass, over Devaun Swafford. Joshua Dobbs was the quarterback in those settings.
Back on the practice field in various stages were: Marlin Lane, Devrin Young and Trevarris Saulsberry. Lane and Young both donned green jerseys while Saulsberry, though he appeared limited, returned to the defense's orange jersey. A.J. Branisel, the Vols' backup tight end who caught a key fourth-down pass against Georgia, also remained limited in a green jersey, as was Drae Bowles, who's battling a shoulder injury.
The Vols worked heavy special teams drills, even doing some first-team kickoff return versus best of the rest. As noted in the War Room last week, Malik Foreman assumed the kickoff return duty vacated by Vincent Dallas.
VolQuest.com will tweet and post notes immediately following today's post-practice comments --- and will do so each day of practice. Additionally we will have a variety of content items this evening, more Wednesday including the matchup piece and Rocky Top Roundtable and have podcast and predictions on Friday. Staff twitter handles are: @VolQuest_Rivals, @VolQuest_Paul, @VolQuest_Rob, @AustinPriceless, @John_BriceVQ and special contributor @GrantRamey.