Butch Jones implored his team to be in constant communication and constant focus as Tennessee opened its second spring practice shortly after 9 Saturday morning.
The Vols, again continuing their acclimation period in mere shells before donning pads next week, had some early one-on-one battles in goal-line settings and also worked extensively --- to very little success whatsoever --- in kicking field goals during an early special teams segment.
Jones' earliest microphone highlight, with The Gap Band's "You Dropped A Bomb On Me" blaring through the overhead speakers, came when he told a defensive back that song was his anthem.
But in the one-on-ones, defense ruled with the exception of yet another Von Pearson highlight ---- this one a fade to the left corner of the end zone placed perfectly over Pearson's shoulder by senior quarterback Justin Worley.
The first one-on-one was freshman wideout Josh Malone on an inside slant that sophomore defensive back Malik Foreman was able to jump inside and bat away the Nathan Peterman pass.
Pearson's over-the-shoulder grab, despite Cam Sutton having solid position, was the second one-on-one battle.
In the third face-off, Marquez North had beaten Justin Coleman's coverage at the line and should have had a touchdown, but a late toss from Joshua Dobbs allowed Coleman to deny the score and drag his foot for the interception.
During some pass skeleton work, Ethan Wolf continued to impress --- with some one-handed catches and also catching the ball at eye-level or higher as Zach Azzanni, Mark Elder, Jones, Mike Bajakian and other coaches instructed.
In special teams work, the Vols' kickers --- George Bullock, Derrick Brodus, Patrick Toole --- were mostly accurate from inside 30-35 yards, but when Jones pushed the kickers to distance --- kicks of 43-45 yards --- nothing went well. Tennessee's kickers didn't make a single field goal from 40 yards or more during the open portion of practice.
The Vols also worked a variety of holder as they seek to replace the highly effective trio of J.R. Carr, Tyler Drummer and Michael Palardy from a year ago. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Josh Smith, Matt Darr and walk-on quarterback Patrick Ashford all took turns with holding duties.
As far as how Tennessee lined up in its early first-team field goal unit with Bullock kicking, Dimarya Mixon had an edge, as did Ethan Wolf. The Vols also utilized LaTroy Lewis, Jordan Williams, Matt Giampapa (snapper), Kyler Kerbyson, Marcus Jackson, Coleman Thomas and Dontavius Blair. Ashford was the holder in the early 1s session, but Darr also got some work there as well.
Defensively, Jakob Johnson continues to show physically very well while he's catching up from a mental and playbook standpoint. But Johnson already is carving potential roles in special teams.
Tennessee again early on worked its "Maxim 1" drill, with Jones really barking at players and moving literally across both practice fields to check in on virtually every station. He was eye-level as the offensive line worked the blocking sled, checked in on the linebackers, watched intently to challenge quarterbacks, receivers, cornerbacks and more during some pass skeleton and continually prodded his team for a productive day.
The Vols also continued to welcome a constant stream of both highly regarded prospects onto campus for today's junior day festivities, as well as approximately a dozen former players.
LaDarrell McNeil was getting reps with the ones today after Lemond Johnson opened there on Friday. Defensive line coach Steve Stripling worked a lot of drills on shedding blockers and was complimentary of Mixon's effort in drill work and in running to the ball. It was obvious in Tennessee's pursuit drills on Saturday that the defensive line was moving much better on Saturday than on Friday.
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.