The Vols are gearing up to go to Milligan (appears they will practice at Science Hill tomorrow due to weather), and the players are extremely excited to have the scrimmage on Saturday. It will be interesting to get more of an idea of which players are ready to step up in a game-like situation.
Here’s a look at what we’ve seen so far in practice:
It’s obvious that the coaches are a lot more confident this year. The team is practicing very efficiently and appears to be ready to get things underway.
Darrington Sentimore has really cranked it up. He looks very solid. Some around the program think he will start vs. NCSU.
Some were down on Brent Brewer coming out of last season, but he is flying around and making plays. Obviously, we’ve got to hope that can translate to the field during games better than it did last year.
Don’t be surprised if Curt Maggitt and AJ Johnson are both All-Sec Players. Coach Sunseri had some very positive things to say about them this week, and with the way they’ve looked so far, they certainly deserve the praise.
Many are down on our cornerback play, but there is definitely some talent there. Honestly, it’s easy to get schooled by our wide receivers because of their immense talent. The defensive backs are getting some experience against wide receivers that will be better than any corps they will face all year. Don’t underestimate how valuable these practice reps are for them.
The running game appears to be turning the corner. Rajion Neal has been solid, and he will likely start in Atlanta. He is very effective catching the ball out of the backfield and could benefit from an offense that will feature swing passes as a way to get the running back the football.
The creativity is not limited to swing passes, though. The staff is experimenting with different ways to get our playmakers the ball in whatever way we can. The option has been the buzz for the last week. Justin Kinghas really shown some flashes, and he has a knack for the read option along with the ability to throw the ball.
Practice has featured triple option formations that utilize Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers as options. Hunter has even taken some direct handoffs.
The one player that could benefit the most IF we insert the wildcat or option offense is Devrin Young. He has gone from being quick to being fast and explosive over the past year. Young is tough to catch and tough to find when he is making cuts through crowds and could really be an electrifying player this season.
Another local product, Cody Blanc has also shown some flashes and is very quick. All of the new recruits have shown some promise.
Mychal Rivera tweaked his knee, but he will be fine.
Kenny Bynum is getting an MRI for leg muscles, and it is unsure how serious it is.
Devante Bourque was banged up but he will be okay. He has a long way to go and may be a redshirt candidate.
Pig Howard is making headway with his recovery. He is learning from the sidelines and is chomping at the bit to get in there.
We continue to expect Jalen Reeves-Maybin to be a Vol. Unless something comes out of nowhere, we will have our newest commitment on Friday.
We are recruiting two linebackers (Not Jack)--Jermaine Grace and EJ Levenberry. Levenberry will probably visit at some point, and the coaches want him here for the Florida game. The coaching changes did not help with Levenberry’s recruitment, but he has interest. We mentioned last week that Grace is undersized. In our system, he would be best suited for the Star position, and we are in his top 2.
Jack Linebacker Jason Hatcher will be visiting at some point this fall, and we have a great shot at Naim Mustafaa at the same position. Flipping Carl Lawson may be wishful thinking, but if we can get him on campus we would have a shot, though he is recruiting others to Auburn right now.
Tray Matthews and Shaq Wiggins are both Georgia commitments, but both will probably visit here this fall. Ansley really likes the physical nature of Matthews. Auburn is making a push with him as well.
We continue to expect offensive lineman Reeve Koehler to be a Vol.
We expect defensive tackle Montravius Adams to end up at Auburn.
Defensive lineman Demarcus Walker will be one to watch. While we are behind Florida and Alabama, he enjoys the idea of playing with Derrick Henry and that could bode well for UT if he announces in our favor this fall.
There has been some chatter about offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil, but we don’t expect him to end up at Tennessee. FSU or Bama are much more likely.
We got a commitment from defensive back Cam Sutton this week, and this is a pickup that we mentioned 4 weeks ago. He has legit size and speed, and opposing teams in high school rarely even throw to his side. He has the ability to lock down opponents and play press. He had quality offers, and some defensive coaches had him evaluated above Brendan Langley.
The biggest name in the cornerback pool is MacKensie Alexander. Coach Hinshaw is going full force after him. Alexander is incredibly quiet but remains steadfast in saying that the Vols are right up there in his recruitment.
Three remaining safeties are Tahaan Goodman, Vonn Bell, and Donald Gray. Goodman’s recruitment has been fairly quiet, but we expect Vonn Bell to be a Vol. Some have speculated that Donald Gray is a silent commit. He seems to be listening to Ole Miss and is behind Tahaan Goodman on our board.
Don’t be surprised if you see wide receiver Camion Patrick replaced due to grade concerns. We are recruiting three JUCO wide receivers, and we should expect to get at least one. Jatavius Stewart is a name to watch here as he has big-play ability and could explode this year.
We expect the staff to take two running backs if we can get the right guys. There are four of them that are receiving the most interest from UT at this point: Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry, Derrick Green, and David Williams.
Kamara and Henry will wait until September which bodes very well for the Vols. Tennessee is battling UGA for Kamara. He is looking for a feeling, and it speaks volumes that he has not quite had that feeling in Athens, despite the numerous visits there. He is not sold on Georgia.
The Derrick Henry situation is odd. We have learned that Tyren Jones has been told that Alabama may not take three running backs, and the Tide is concerned with losing either Tyren Jones or AlteeTennpenny. Obviously this would be great for UT.
Derrick Green is down to four teams: UT, Michigan, Auburn, and Virginia Tech. He will be here for the Florida game and really likes our depth chart. Tennessee should have a good shot here. Michigan is the favorite, but he has an affinity for the SEC.
David Williams is a guy the staff would like to land. He would compliment a bigger back very well and has the vision and speed we need in the backfield. He is believed to be South Carolina's number 1 target.
Finally, a name we have heard mentioned recently is Dorian Miller. He is an offensive lineman that will probably end up at Rutgers, but Tennessee would open another OL spot for him.
Extra Note: If you can, watch the Elite 11 special on ESPNU. Riley Ferguson is a ball player. He fights through adversity and wants to lead his team and set the example of what it means to be the best no matter what the adversity. He is a true leader and exemplifies the qualities that Coach Dooley wants in a Volunteer.