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August 3, 2014

Quick HiTs Day 3: Circle drill tests Vols

Butch Jones did two things almost immediately after practice began Sunday afternoon that were designed to swing his team into instant focus: banished Tennessee's prestigious players' staff to the 'Black Hole' for conditioning punishment and ushered in the first day of shoulder pads with perhaps the Vols' longest list of circle-of-life participants since Jones' arrival.

Dissatisfied with his team's body language in the earliest moments of practice, Jones banished the players voted on as the squad's top leaders for additional conditioning with strength coach Dave Lawson while others worked on the manhood-challenging one-on-one circle drill. The Vols' players' staff consists of: Marlin Lane, Justin Worley, Joshua Dobbs, Nathan Peterman, A.J. Johnson, Mack Crowder, Curt Maggitt, Brian Randolph, Josh Smith, Jordan Williams, Marquez North and Corey Vereen.

In the circle drills, there were at least 15 intrasquad battles before Jones wrapped up the challenges with this message to his entire team:

"Do you want to win?," Jones asked, getting a resounding "Yes!" from his players. "I didn't like the way we came out. It was unacceptable."

Among the one-on-one battles that highlighted the drills were:

Coleman Thomas battling Dewayne Hendrix to a virtual stalemate; Jalen Hurd winning with a takedown of Cortez McDowell; Elliot Berry more than holding his own against Lemond Johnson; Rashaan Gaulden, a day after sitting out with a high-ankle sprain, scoring a decisive win against Geraldo Orta with a takedown; Kenny Bynum toppled Gavin Bryant; Dontavius Blair looked better than at any point in the spring in this drill, repeatedly handling Jashon Robertson, who had gotten an earlier win. Todd Kelly Jr. and Derrell Scott were pretty even until Kelly gained the upper hand; Chris Weatherd "beasted" Justin King, according to a UT staffer near the circle who witnessed it first-hand; Josh Malone took down Evan Berry; Dillon Bates appeared to top A.J. Branisel and Neiko Creamer while one of the final battles saw Derek Barnett overpower Daniel Helm.

The Vols' newcomers, particularly on defense, made an instant impression on some high school coaches watching practice; coaches who long have been checking out UT practices. The group of coaches were unanimous in citing a greater level of athleticism, speed and talent on the Vols' practice field.

Offensively, the two-deep continued to look fairly static: the offensive line was unchanged with Jacob Gilliam still holding on to that left-tackle spot; skill guys saw Justin Worley open at QB with Marlin Lane at tailback; the wideouts were: Marquez North, Von Pearson and Josh Malone. The tight ends mostly rotated, with Daniel Helm, Ethan Wolf and Brendan Downs all getting some time with the 1s.

The second-team OL appeared to be: Blair, Austin Sanders, Ray Raulerson, Marques Pair and Brett Kendrick. Skill guys there were: Alton 'Pig' Howard, Jason Croom, Josh Smith and A.J. Branisel at tight end. Devrin Young and Johnathon Johnson also were in the mix here as well.

Defensively, the Vols worked a number of unique looks and also repped looks with much greater speed on the field. The Vols had Curt Maggitt, Dimarya Mixon and Corey Vereen together up front in a package that also saw A.J. Johnson and Jalen Reeves-Maybin roaming around a bit with a bevy of defensive backs in the mix.

Malik Foreman was back after missing Saturday's practice due to a death in the family; Foreman got some first-team reps at left corner along with Emmanuel Mosley.

The Vols extensively worked substitution patterns and packages on defense as well.

On a roster note, walk-on Dellen Hash elected to quit, according to UT sources, while wideout Jaye Rochelle was promoted to take Hash's spot on the 105-man roster.

Injured Vols Cody Blanc and Charles Mosley both were at the practice field on crutches.

The coaches also introduced a new one-on-one drill today with tight ends/running backs going against linebackers in the passing game. The newcomers accounted well for themselves with Weatherd, Bates and Bryant all having pass break-ups.

VolQuest.com has a photo gallery, video highlights and many other items, including Jones' reaction, as well as that of players, coming immediately after practice. We'll post updates to the General's Quarters, as well as our Twitter handles: @John_BriceVQ; @Brent_Hubbs; @VolQuest_Rob; @VolQuest_Paul; @GrantRamey; @AustinPriceless.

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