There was only so much Tennessee could get done before the Vols went on spring break this week. Still, there were certainly some positives.
The Vols had just three practices last week and just one in full pads. For the most part, it was an opportunity for Tennessee’s quarterbacks and receivers to build chemistry and for the Vols’ defensive backs using their athleticism to make an impression on their coaches, as there was little contact.
Here are five takeaways after the first week of practice:
Tennessee’s receivers aren’t as bad as they first looked
Monday’s practice looked exactly like one would expect: the first practice of the year. There were dropped passes, errant throws and some poor communication. It got a bit better on Tuesday as the Vols looked to be more in sync. Tennessee is nowhere close to mid-season form, but the way the Vols improved over just two days was encouraging. Former quarterback Jauan Jennings and Preston Williams have been two that have stood out. Both are sophomores so there is tremendous upside for each.
There could be some surprises in the secondary
When spring practice began, the Vols immediately moved Rashaan Gaulden from nickelback to safety, where he would have started in 2014 had it not been for an injury that kept him out for most of the season. As much as the Vols utilize their nickelback, that’s a significant move. It can only signify that Tennessee’s coaches believe Gaulden can fill one of the vacated safety positions, where he’ll see even more snaps than he would have at nickel. Malik Foreman has been impressive at nickelback and Micah Abernathy has drawn rave reviews at safety alongside Gaulden.
Drew Richmond is going to get his shot
The talk surrounding Richmond, a redshirt freshman offensive lineman, wasn’t very good early last season as he struggled to make the transition to college. It progressively got better and now the former four-star recruit is getting the first look at left tackle, where the Vols have to replace Kyler Kerbyson. Richmond hasn’t locked down the starting job yet. However, if he can, the Vols could eventually be better at left tackle than when they had Kerbyson, who was more suited for guard.
Kahlil McKenzie isn’t satisfied
McKenzie’s girth was considered a gift when he arrived on campus last season. He didn’t exactly see it that way. McKenzie said he dropped some “baby fat” and certainly looked different last week, especially from the waist down. McKenzie didn’t share his weight, but he should be more explosive in 2016 if the first week of spring is any indication.
Tennessee’s new coaches are fitting in nicely
First-year Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop is doing as much learning as teaching at this point. He’s also building a strong relationship with his players, especially the leaders, such as cornerback Cameron Sutton and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin. First-year Tennessee tight ends coach Larry Scott’s energy is infectious. So far, the two seem very comfortable and reviews from players have been positive.