5 things we learned from Tennessee’s 1st week of spring practice – Knoxville News Sentinel

  • Darrin Kirkland Jr. meets with the media
  • Todd Kelly Jr.: "Everyone wants to get better. "
  • Highlights from UT's second spring practice
  • Video: Vols quarterbacks meet with media
  • Tennessee opens spring practice
  • Emmanuel Moseley says it's about details and "eyes"
  • Butch Jones talks spring practice, staff changes
  • Video: Butch Jones ready for spring practice
  • Video: Recapping Butch Jones' news conference on spring practice
  • Video: Tennessee quarterback competition
  • Fulmer speaks at charity dinner
  • Brady Hoke introduced at UT
  • Vols new receivers coach Kevin Beard on starting the process
  • Vols O-line coach Walt Wells is all about competition
  • Video: Vols offensive coordinator Larry Scott
  • UT Football Players Talk Rock
  • Video: Offseason changes to Tennessee football staff
  • Tennesseee's 2017 signing class
  • Butch Jones: I'm ecstatic about Josh Palmer
  • VIDEO: Scenes from the UT Football Recruiting Announcement Event
  • Tennessee enrollees for 2017 signing class
  • Tennessee's Larry Scott, Mike Canales share history
  • Meet new Vol QB coach Mike Canales
  • New Tennessee defensive backs coach Charlton Warren

The sounds of pads crunching filled the air around the Tennessee football practice field.

The Vols donned full gear for the first time on Saturday and started hitting to cap the first week of spring practice.

A video posted on Twitter by @Vol_Football showed UT taking part in full-contact team sessions and going through the “Circle of Life” drill with one-on-one competitions.

UT coach Butch Jones emphasized last Monday the need for the Vols to be more physical this spring after missed tackles littered the field last season.

UT has 12 more practices remaining, culminating with the Orange and White Game on April 22 (TV: SEC Network, 4 p.m. EDT) at Neyland Stadium.

Here are five things that emerged from UT’s first week:

1. Consistency key to finding a QB

In the early window of practice open to the media, junior Quinten Dormady and redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano have been receiving equal reps in throwing drills. Both have shown good arm strength and touch on their throws. After UT’s opening practice last Tuesday, each quarterback said they are focused on consistency and excited for a chance to become the starter. Their demeanors are different with Dormady more even-keeled and Guarantano more outgoing. Jones was impressed with how both commanded the line of scrimmage, but expects a few bumps to come as UT increases its installation process throughout spring.

Read more:

Tennessee’s Quinten Dormady, Jarrett Guarantano locked in QB battle

Guarantano: Competing for Tennessee’s starting QB role ‘like a dream come true’

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Tennessee Vols quarterbacks Jarrett Guarantano and Quinten Dormady met with the media after the team’s first spring practice Tuesday, March 21, 2017.
Rhiannon Potkey

2. Coaches are bringing the energy

Spring practice has provided the first chance for UT’s new coaches and coaches in new roles to get on the field and work with the players. One thing is instantly noticeable – they are an energetic group. The coaches have been very hands-on with players. New defensive line coach Brady Hoke was active in drills and demonstrating how things are done. New wide receivers coach Kevin Beard wears cleats so he can jump into a drill at any time. New quarterbacks coach Mike Canales is extremely vocal, encouraging and correcting the quarterbacks after throws or drills. Jones was a “quiet coach” last week so he could view how the staff interacted with the players and take notes.

3. More than a few good men

Leadership is a buzz word around the Vols this spring with nearly every player who spoke with the media last week expressing a willingness to take a bigger leadership role. Jones said spring practice is the time when the Vols will build the identity for Team 121 and leaders will emerge. In the offseason, Jones made UT’s weekly 4th-and-1 program a player-led initiative to help get the leadership process started. UT lost every team captain from last season to graduation or early entry to the NFL draft, so they need players to fill the void. Jones said he’s hearing more players talking during practice and seeing more older players instructing younger players than ever before.

4. Sweating the small stuff

UT’s motto this spring is “DAT way,” the acronym meaning Details, Accountability and Toughness. The Vols are stressing the little things in practices – not dropping passes, maintaining eye discipline, running routes precisely, having their footwork just right, tackling with proper technique. Defensive backs Todd Kelly Jr. and Emmanuel Moseley discussed how not adhering to the small stuff led to big plays for opponents last season with coverage busts and missed tackles. Players are expected to get it right going through drills this spring and give maximum effort regardless of the task. The emphasis on fundamentals stretches to every position group. The Vols don’t want any excuses made for mistakes and would rather learn the lessons now than during the season when it can mean the difference between winning and suffering a bad loss.

5. Injured, but still active

UT announced eight players would not take part in spring practice – Kendal Vickers, Micah Abernathy, Josh Smith, Rashaan Gaulden, Brett Kendrick, Shy Tuttle, Kyle Phillips and Brandon Johnson. A few others have been limited in practice. Despite their injuries, the players remain involved in practices on the field. They have been standing right alongside their position groups, taking mental reps and watching. Kendrick was stationed near the offensive linemen on Tuesday with a play call sheet in his hands. Abernathy was taking phantom punt returns on Thursday while his teammates fielded real footballs.

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