March 7, 2014

Quick HiTs: Vols usher in 1st spring drills

With a picturesque day on Haslam Field, ringed by myriad prospects already in town for Tennessee's pending junior day on Saturday, the backdrop, Tennessee opened its second spring camp under Butch Jones Friday afternoon.

The Vols, working only in jerseys and helmets, initiated spring with a mostly healthy roster and Jones back on his microphone --- playfully taking his first verbal jobs at just-departed offensive linemen James Stone, Zach Fulton and Ja'Wuan James, all in town working out in preparation for next month's pro day at Tennessee and May's NFL Draft.

Tennessee wasted no time in getting extensive looks at its newcomers, though it was veteran Justin Worley who trotted out first among the quarterbacks and then was followed by Nathan Peterman during early sets.

But the physical changes to a number of players, as well as increased competition, depth and speed, were the day's biggest highlights.

Marquez North looked like a fourth-year player in many regards from a physical appearance, while it was obvious that both Riley Ferguson and Josh Dobbs had added weight --- particularly Dobbs. Marlin Lane also was physically bigger.

And while Von Pearson showed well in the early going, Emmanuel Moseley, the staff's prized find from North Carolina, showed top-end speed in a hurry.

When the Vols did line up in an 11-man offense, it was Worley, Lane, North, Jason Croom and Pearson, slot receiver, in the skill spots. The tight end was Alex Ellis, with an offensive line left to right consisting of: Dontavius Blair, Marcus Jackson, Mack Crowder, Kyler Kerbyson and Coleman Thomas.

On the defensive side of the ball, a big first-day emphasis was a technique/scheme drill in handling the zone read. The real focus was on how to play the edge at the linebacker position with players instructed to be particularly effective utilizing their eyes and hands. Obviously the zone read is a huge component of offensive football in the college game and it's something this team will see a lot of in their opener against Utah State.

Another area of focus in their maxim period was on running to the ball with the proper angle. It was also an effort drill and it was a period that served notice to Owen Williams that he wasn't in Kansas anymore.

Defensive coordinator John Jancek also got in some early nickel formation work, which was another indicator of how far this team is along already in installation.

The first team nickel defense lined up this way: up front Corey Vereen, Owen Williams, Danny O'Brien, Jordan Williams; at linebacker it was A.J Johnson and Curt Maggitt. And the five defensive backs were Cam Sutton and Malik Foreman at cornerback, Justin Coleman at the nickel, and at safety it was Lemond Johnson and Devaun Swafford.

As noted, a number of top-notch prospects had already made their ways to Rocky Top. Included among those already at Friday's practice were: Tyron Johnson, Jalen McCleskey, Cole Kotopka, Joe Burrow and Jacob Carter, a quarterback from Baker County High School in Florida.

VolQuest.com will provide daily Quick HiTs from each of the Vols' spring practices. Additionally, we'll have in-depth videos, stories and analysis as well as updates on the message board and via staff twitter handles, which are as follows: @Brent_Hubbs; @VolQuest_Paul; @John_BriceVQ; @GrantRamey; VolQuest_Rob; and @VolQuest_Rivals.

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