Vols work backup QBs, juggle OL
Tennessee's offensive starters got work with all of the Vols' scholarship quarterbacks Tuesday during practice on Haslam Field, with backups Nathan Peterman and Joshua Dobbs continuing to get a substantial workload.
While incumbent Justin Worley practiced but did not throw a pass in the open portions, Peterman and Dobbs --- each with starting experience a year ago, but only Peterman has played this season --- continued to get reps with Tennessee's first-team offense. Jones said it was imperative to get the signal-callers behind Worley reps sooner than later this week.
"Well, it helps immensely," Jones said when asked by VolQuest.com. "They've gained valuable practice repetitions, game-speed repetitions, but you can try to simulate everything in practice and put them in hypothetical situations, but really it comes down to live opportunities. When you look at Nate Peterman getting some live snaps last year and this year; you look at Josh Dobbs last year, so again that proves beneficial for the entire growth and development of that group.
"We do [try to be proactive]. We've found out very quickly here that quarterback is one snap away, so again those repetitions are very valuable."
Added starting tailback Jalen Hurd of the additional work with Dobbs and Peterman, "It's great. We need to have great meshes with all of our quarterbacks. We do that each week, week by week. It's good to have that correlation with all the quarterbacks."
Worley has been sacked at least 28 of the 30 times that Vols' quarterbacks have been tackled on attempted passing plays through Tennessee's first seven games; the Vols also are dead-last in the SEC and 123rd nationally in sacks allowed.
Junior center Mack Crowder said it benefits him to work with all the signal-callers, but Crowder insisted he had worked with both Dobbs and Peterman before this week.
"I mean it helps just to be comfortable with all of them," Crowder said. "… Somebody asked if it's any different, but we've really been doing this since camp. We're comfortable with everybody back there."
Tennessee also is seeking comfort along its offensive front, which did not have starters Marcus Jackson (LG) and Coleman Thomas (RT) on the practice field during open sessions.
Jones insisted that Jackson, who twisted his knee in the loss last week at Ole Miss, later did some work in practice, but he admitted that Thomas was not as progressed from his high-ankle sprain. The Vols have worked a number of different combinations along their starting five this week, including from left to right: Kyler Kerbyson, Jashon Robertson, Crowder, Dylan Wiesman and Brett Kendrick. Kerbyson also has worked some at guard and even got in some snaps at center with Dobbs early in Tuesday's practice. Jackson could get a more legitimate workload on Wednesday, while Jacob Gilliam, he of the torn ACL suffered on Aug. 31, and Austin Sanders both are potential options at tackle and guard, respectively.
Wiesman is one of Tennessee's starters on punt shield, and Jones praised the Ohio native's toughness; Robertson, a true freshman who began his Vols career as a defensive tackle in practice, has been the starter at right guard each of the first seven games.
"(Wiesman) brings a grittiness, a toughness. Very, very competitive," Jones said. "Again, when we talk about what separates freshmen, it's the maturity. And Jashon has been extremely mature, and he's very cerebral, he's very intelligent. And that allows flexibility in his positions."
Like Jones, Crowder praised Wiesman's toughness.
"Just the physical edge that he brings. When you think of Wiesman, you think of a tough-nosed guy that doesn't give up for anything," Crowder said. "As an offensive lineman, that's who you want to be playing next to.
"(Wiesman) comes from Colerain (High School in Cincinnati), little country guy, and he definitely has a little nasty streak in him."
Similarly, while pointing to Robertson's cross-training Crowder noted that's the philosophy for the entire offensive line.
"Says a lot, just because he's a smart guy," Crowder explained. "And really everybody can move around. In the film room, we're all answering questions for every position. It's really just taking it to the field at that point.
"This is the whole reason for it, because throughout the season things happen and guys do have to move around."
For Tennessee this week, that's true both along the offensive front and at quarterback.