There were blue jerseys and more stripe-free players Thursday afternoon when Tennessee returned to practice on Haslam Field.
The Vols, following a two-day acclimation period for the onset of fall semester classes, began in earnest their game-week preparations for the Aug. 31 season opening against Utah State inside Neyland Stadium. Todd Kelly Jr., Owen Williams, Von Pearson and Daniel Helm all had their black, rookie stripes removed from their helmets since Monday's practice. They join fellow first-year players Jalen Hurd, Emmanuel Moseley, Derek Barnett, Ethan Wolf and Jashon Robertson.
With some scout team players in Utah State blue, the Vols settled quickly into special teams work as an extremely animated Butch Jones went to work instilling a greater sense of urgency into his Tennessee team with kickoff in 10 days.
Settling into some first-team punt coverage work were: Geraldo Orta, Devaun Swafford, LaDarrell McNeil, Cam Sutton, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Danny O'Brien (shield), Brian Randolph, Justin King (shield), Dylan Wiesman (shield), Matt Darr (punter) and deep-snapper Matt Giampapa.
The second-team unit largely consisted of: Ethan Wolf, Elliot Berry, Dimarya Mixon, Michael Williams, Malik Foreman, Troy Waites (punter), Kendal Vickers, Rashaan Gaulden, Chris Weatherd, Justin Coleman and Kenny Bynum.
Vic Wharton was back at full-speed in drills and worked alongside Devrin Young, Marlin Lane and Jalen Hurd on some kick return opportunities.
It appeared that Coleman Thomas again got some first-team work at right tackle, as the Vols seek to continue to build depth along their offensive front. Tennessee appears to have pretty closely defined a top-eight along its offensive front of: Jacob Gilliam, Marcus Jackson, Mack Crowder, Jashon Robertson, Kyler Kerbyson, Thomas, Dontavius Blair and Dylan Wiesman, whose continued improvement is a key element of the Vols' plans up front.
Jones didn't just challenge his players on this day; Tennessee's second-year coach was not bashful about calling out his coaches over the microphone as he attempted to ratchet up intensity and efficiency.
The Vols will work again Friday afternoon, have the weekend mostly off and then reconvene Sunday evening for team meetings. Monday will be largely a study and game-plan day before Tennessee heads into its game week with full-scale work resuming on Tuesday for the Sunday night opener.
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.