Donning full pads a day after also getting more physical work than normal, Tennessee resumed practice Tuesday in preparation for its fifth-straight game and seventh in eight contests against a nationally ranked opponent.
The Vols (4-5, 1-4 SEC) host resurgent Auburn (8-1, 4-1), ranked in the top 10 in all polls including the BCS, Saturday inside Neyland Stadium at noon for homecoming, and first-year UT coach Butch Jones conducted an extremely physical early portion of practice.
Jones had one of the lengthiest bull-in-the-ring/circle-of-life drills of the entire season, with numerous players being asked to go multiple rounds. Perhaps the highlight matchup was Dan McCullers against Zach Fulton, two of the Vols' largest and most physically imposing players. After an initial stalemate, McCullers definitely appeared to gain the upper hand.
Jones also loudly challenged his offensive line, bellowing "We got a new nickname for the offensive line and it's a new club here in Tennessee. Club 90, since we only rushed for 90 yards last week at Missouri." The o-line also did extensive sled work, with five-man rotations hitting the sled and driving it across Haslam Field from side to side.
Virtually all the green, non-contact jerseys were absent from the Vols' practice, with A.J. Branisel among the only players in green throughout. The rookie tight end later was joined by Brian Randolph, who began in orange but then was switched into a green jersey during the circle drills. Justin Coleman and Byron Moore both were out of the green jerseys.
Joshua Dobbs again helmed the offense, with Jason Croom among the starters at wideout with Pig Howard and Marquez North. Rajion Neal was the opening tailback, with Brendan Downs at tight end and the Vols' usual complement of offensive linemen.
Riley Ferguson, minus the heavy wrap on his right leg, started with the second-team offensive unit, though Nathan Peterman, still with his right, throwing hand heavily taped, returned and got some second-team work.
The Vols continued to heavily work special teams and seemed to give their holders more work for a right-footed kicker in case Michael Palardy again suffers from back spasms and is questionable. But Palardy appeared full-go on Tuesday, and the senior do-everything specialist was booming punts during the earliest portion of practice when the specialists typically are the first players onto the field.
VolQuest.com will continue with full coverage throughout Tuesday and all day Wednesday, with the matchup piece, mid-week recruiting roundup and more. Staff twitter handles are: @VolQuest_Staff, @VolQuest_Paul, @VolQuest_Rob, @John_BriceVQ, @AustinPriceless and regular contributor @GrantRamey.