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March 11, 2014

Quick HiTs: Vols don the pads

Tennessee hit Haslam Field in full pads Tuesday afternoon as the Vols began their second week, and third official practice, of their 2014 spring camp.

Just as a year ago, coach Butch Jones wasted little time in circling his team up to challenge players' individual physicality, as well as that of his team's mindset.

Jones pulled his squad into the one-on-one, bull-in-the-ring drills or circle of life as Jones calls it instantly after the Vols concluded their pre-practice stretching.

Newcomers Dontavius Blair and Von Pearson might have had the biggest wins of the day, with Pearson absolutely overpowering senior cornerback Justin Coleman. Dylan Wiesman, Daniel Helm and Jakob Johnson all took turns in the ring as well, and none of the three seemed to lose his stand-off. Ray Raulerson had what appeared to be a win in the bull-ring setting as well.

Danny O'Brien mostly held his ground while LaTroy Lewis pushed tight end Woody Quinn back but Quinn showed an improved physicality. Lemond Johnson also got some work in the ring and held his ground.

Defensively, there was a great deal of teaching and working combo receiver sets. Coaches worked hand-explosion drills, form tackles, while remaining heavy on instruction before moving later into series and substitution work.

There was again heavy emphasis on special teams, notably field goal work, in the early going of practice as well as the continued work to identify return specialists.

Working at center during early stages, as VolQuest.com noted last week, were Marcus Jackson, Kyler Kerbyson and Ray Raulerson in addition to incumbent Mack Crowder.

Offensive line coach Don Mahoney also worked his guys in physical pass-sets after running them under the balance station to help linemen maintain a lower center of gravity.

In wide receiver work, Zach Azzanni drilled his guys on blocking sets and details. In a drill that Azzanni has used from his outset at Tennessee, he worked the wide receivers in a blocking drill where players must move their feet to remain in front of a defender without using their hands.

At the running back spot, Robert Gillespie tested the physicality of his group with work holding into the balls tied to bungee cords and also had them running through the plastic-filled gauntlet. Gillespie even made his charges run through the plastic chute, immediately turn around and return right back through the chute. More than one player struggled to keep his footing in that drill at times.

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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