KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The nation’s most dangerous kick returner was back in action on Monday, and it didn’t take long for Tennessee’s Evan Berry to break loose.
Berry, who had missed the past several practices with an undisclosed injury, ran past the scout team on his very first return.
Berry, the younger brother of Former UT All-American and Kansas City Chiefs 2015 NFL Comeback Player of the Year Eric Berry, averaged a nation’s-best 38.3 yards per kick return last season.
Tennessee first-year assistant coach Larry Scott, who’s in charge of special teams along with tight ends, told the media last week that “we’re going to begin working him back in” when asked about Berry.
The Vols have no shortage of capable return men, particularly with the emergence of true freshman Tyler Byrd, who has also gotten work in the return game this fall.
Byrd, from Naples, Fla., has been working as a slot receiver and was clocked as the fastest player on the team in fall practices.
UT coach Butch Jones has made it clear he places a priority on special teams, and his personnel choices on the units suggest as much.
The Vols have 13 receivers on their roster, but it’s the defensive backs getting it done on the return units.
In addition to Berry, defensive backs Micah Abernathy, Rashaan Gaulden, Emmanuel Moseley and Justin Martin are also lined up on the kick return unit.
Additionally, cornerback Cam Sutton is the Vols’ primary punt return man.
Still in Green
UT senior captain Jalen Reeves-Maybiin remained in a green, no-contact jersey, as did star tailback Jalen Hurd, defensive lineman Austin Smith, receiver Brandon Johnson and tailback Carlin Fils-aime.
Reeves-Maybin said earlier Monday that he’s still not sure if his shoulder is 100 percent.
Hurd, meanwhile, said earlier this fall that the coaches are making him wear the green jersey.
Defensive tackle Shy Tuttle, who’s trying to come back from a broken leg, has eschewed the green jersey and wears orange every day despite being limited.
Tennessee broke out its game helmets for the first time this fall. This is the fourth season the Vols have used different helmets for games than from practice, largely in an effort to reduce the maintenance needed to be performed on the equipment.
Scouts from the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Washington Redskins were in attendance at Tennessee’s practice, which was closed to the media after two periods.
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s SEC Country and lives in Knoxville
— Mike Griffith (@MikeGriffith32) August 22, 2016