Vince’s View: UT football observations & notes from practices 7/8 including focus on DL/OL

Vols team / Credit: 99.1 The Sports Animal

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are some observations and notes from the University of Tennessee’s last two football practices, 7 and 8, along with comments from Jeremy Pruitt on Saturday, here in my blog, Vince’s View.

-For the second day in a row, the team was in shells rather than full pads

-The team had a much shorter practice than normal Saturday, surely in preparation for an important first scrimmage Sunday at Neyland Stadium

-Jeremy Pruitt mentioned Saturday that they want to turn the players loose to see what they can do and how they handle situations without the coaches right next to them

-Pruitt had high praise for true freshman RB Eric Gray

“Eric’s very mature. When you watch him practice and go about his business, he gets it the first time. He learns from other people’s mistakes. He’s got really good ball skills, good vision, good competitor. He jumps out there. He’s very mature when it comes to football playing ability. We’re excited about him. I think he’s had a really good camp so far. Again, this will be a guy that’s been really good at drills, really good at practice, now let’s see how he does when we get over here to the stadium. So, looking forward to seeing that.”

-I’ve said in the off-season, that I expect Gray to be in the top 2 running back rotation before long during the season. If Ty Chandler gets split-out wide a lot, you could see both of them on the field a lot together. Gray (or whoever is the #2 RB at the time) would earn plenty of carries in that scenario because Chandler is so good catch the ball and in open space.

-I know the group just lost Emmit Gooden and there are plenty of question marks about the unit, but I see improvement from many of the defensive linemen. Guys are bigger and stronger individually. I think the unit is larger in stature than it was a year ago. And, I think there are more linemen that Tracy Rocker will be willing to put on the field this year. Last season, it was Kyle Phillips, Shy Tuttle and Alexis Johnson that saw a majority of the snaps. You’ll see most, or all, of the 10 remaining linemen get some early season playing time.

-Obviously, UT needs one of those 10 DLs to be eligible, in Aubrey Solomon. Solomon has looked strong and physical in camp. There’s no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the former 5-star recruit will start, if eligible immediately as a transfer.

-DT Greg Emerson has been complimented after his reps quite a bit. He’s much more of a factor for playing time this season than he was last season. He’s likely to primarily be used inside at tackle, but he has taken reps in individual drills at end.

Savion Williams is big (340-ish) but he’s still very inconsistent. He’ll look strong in one drill and draw the ire of Tracy Rocker the next. I would wait until team settings before expecting him to wreck the SEC and label him a star.

-Here is how the defensive linemen lined-up in one drill at Friday’s practice. These have no meaning whatsoever in whom they were paired-up with or depth chart position or anything like that. They weren’t concerned with the personnel pairings, just to get the reps in for the given calls and to do it right. I do think the positions give some insight on how much players will move around the line based on the front that’s called.

4-man fronts
LDE Ja’Quain Blakely
LDT Kingston Harris
RDT Savion Williams
RDE Matthew Butler

LDE Bryan Aiken (walk-on)
LDT Darel Middleton
RDT Gatkek Kueth (walk-on)
RDE LaTrell Bumphus

3-man fronts
LDE Greg Emerson
DT Elijah Simmons
RDE Aubrey Solomon

LDE Greg Emerson
DT Elijah Simmons
RDE Savion Williams

2-man fronts
LDT Elijah Simmons
RDT Aubrey Solomon

LDT Darel Middleton
RDT Savion Williams

-Jeremy Pruitt said they aren’t very close to finding a first five on the offensive line. They have identified 10 or 11 players that are competing. With 13 OLs (counting Trey Smith) that means that there are likely two guys that are on the outside looking in for whatever reason…health, youth, ability, numbers, etc. My guess on those two are redshirt freshman Ollie Lane, who I have not seen during our viewing periods, and true freshman Jackson Lampley, who gets very limited reps. He’s usually with the walk-ons in a scout team position opposing the linemen getting reps.

-Jeremy Pruitt was asked if Jahmir Johnson can play on the right side of the offensive line. I don’t recall seeing Johnson take any right-side reps last year or this year in practices or games. He’s been at guard and tackle but all on the left side. Pruitt has talked about before that some guys can play one position either side, others can play multiple positions but on one side and others can play multiple positions on either side. Johnson has looked good this camp. If Trey Smith plays then he’s likely his backup at LG. If Smith can’t go, or is in-and-out, then Johnson will likely get the nod there. Another reason why I think Johnson hasn’t received many reps at RG is because big K’Rojhn Calbert has his hands around that position, I believe, despite strong competition from Jerome Carvin. Carvin is taking more reps now at RG after the departure of Nathan Niehaus.

-With the o-line and d-line especially, these next two scrimmages will start to separate the true playing time contenders at the start of the season

-I’ll be on SportsTalk with Jimmy Hyams for the vacationing John Wilkerson, so if you have any questions about any players or the team from my vantage point, feel free to call us at 865-656-9900 or tweet me @VinceSports

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