Tennessee coach Butch Jones said his team will be without two receivers for the remainder of spring practice, which concludes on Saturday with the annual Orange and White Game in Neyland Stadium.
Jones said rising sophomore Jauan Jennings and and rising freshman Vincent Perry have been ruled out, but will return in June. Jones did not disclose the nature of the injuries. Receiver Josh Smith was also held out of practice on Tuesday, but Jones said the rising junior should be back in time for the spring game on Saturday.
On a more positive note, the Vols welcomed back cornerback Justin Martin. The rising junior has been sidelined for an extended period of time as he dealt with an undisclosed illness.
“It was good to have Justin Martin out here,” Jones said. “He’s been battling a sickness for the last couple of weeks. He’s lost a lot of weight.”
Jones said Martin wasn’t around the team much during his illness. Martin was wearing a red non-contact jersey during Tuesday’s practice.
“He missed the meetings (while he was sick),” Jones said. “He was making sure he was taking care of his himself and checking in with the trainers but we needed to make sure we got him over his illness … I know he’s a prideful young man. He wants to get back. He was antsy. He tried to go a couple of times (on Tuesday) but he couldn’t go.”
As for the offense, the constant rotation of mostly inexperienced receivers has made it tough to develop much chemistry in the passing game. Even though the latest rash of injuries will just affect the final three practices, it’s certainly not ideal.
“That’s been a challenge in and of itself and we always know everything is about timing,” Jones said.
Rising senior quarterback Josh Dobbs has also taken note of the inconsistencies. He’s tried to make the best of it.
“Timing wise, things will change when you’ve got different guys,” Dobbs said. “But from a fundamental standpoint, you just go out there and continue to hone your fundamentals, get more consistent at things, make sure you have good body positions on your throws. Obviously, you continue to improve. Obviously, different guys and different timing will make it tough, but you always get good fundamental work.”
Jones said the Vols will have a “fun” surprise announcement during halftime of the Orange and White Game. Dobbs, on the other hand, is always about business. He just wants to finish spring practice on a high note.
“Just finishing strong,” Dobbs said when asked how he wants to finish spring practice. “We talked about it today. Just finishing out the spring, still focusing on details. Obviously, you get to the last week and it’s a grind. You’ve been hitting for four straight weeks. Just finishing out the spring strong and being crisp on our details.”
Dobbs said with a new cast of receivers, the Vols have also worked on utilizing the tight ends and running backs in different ways. Also, Dobbs said Tennessee’s offense has benefitted from facing a new defense, led by Bob Shoop, who was hired as defensive coordinator in January.
“We’ve gotten different looks with coach Shoop and the defense,” Dobbs said, “so it’s been a very productive spring for me and the entire offense.”