Tennessee had several more prying eyes when it opened spring practice on Monday.
The Vols announced that Monday’s practice would be entirely open for media to watch, as long as there weren’t immediate reports nor video after the usual “open” sessions of practice, which are largely dedicated to warming up and stretching.
“Won’t be able to do it everyday but will try to do it as much as possible,” Tennessee spokesman Ryan Robinson told SEC Country.
Tennessee wasn’t in full pads on Monday as allocated by the NCAA acclimation rule.
Once full contact is allowed, the Vols will have a serious challenge to face. They’ll have five defensive linemen who will be out or limited due to injury. That will factor into how much the Vols are able to play full 11-on-11 football this spring.
Three of Tennessee’s top defensive lineman will be limited or held out of spring practice with various injuries: Defensive tackle Shy Tuttle and defensive ends Derek Barnett and Kyle Phillips.
Tuttle suffered a fractured ankle with torn ligaments in the Georgia game last season just as he was starting to garner strong praise as a freshman. Tennessee coach Butch Jones said the sophomore recently had the screws removed from his ankle.
Phillips, who was a highly-touted high school prospect, is recovering from shoulder surgery. Barnett is also recovering from an ailing shoulder.
The Vols are also still without junior college defensive tackle Alexis Johnson. Johnson is facing charges of aggravated assault and false imprisonment, and recently pled “not guilty”. However, Johnson’s availability for spring practice looks doubtful unless the court proceedings move much faster than expected. That will leave the Vols with very few proven defensive linemen for spring camp.
Tennessee’s offensive line is banged up as well. Jashon Robertson and Chance Hall are both expected to be limited.
Tennessee will also be without a handful of other players due to a myriad of injuries, including defensive linemen Kendal Vickers and Andrew Butcher, safety/kick returner Evan Berry, receiver Josh Malone, tight end Joe Stocstill and running back Joe Young.
“We are focusing to really try and get these individuals back,” Jones said. “They all should be back by June when we start our summer (workouts). I know these players are still going to work hard with the mental effort and mental intensity that it takes. While practice is going on, they will spend a lot of time in the training room and the weight room doing the things that they can do to make themselves a better football player.”
While some of the Vols are on the mend, another is ready to take advantage of his opportunity in spring practice. Freshman receiver Vincent Perry redshirted last season after a knee injury, and is now ready to contribute. The Vols could use the extra hand as they’re a bit light at the receiver position
“He was taking many strides and moving forward,” Jones said. “We are anxious to see what he can do. I know it’s been a long process for him…He has worked exceptionally hard in the training room and to get himself back. We really need him for all of these practices for his individual improvement.”
Jones also announced a handful of position changes. Sophomore Austin Smith will move from linebacker to defensive end. Sophomore Micah Abernathy will move from cornerback to safety. Redshirt senior Jason Croom will move from receiver to tight end.