It’s Football Time in Tennessee! Camp is here and the practice notes are pouring in! We at CBC know there is a ton of websites offering updates on all the happenings of the program, but sometimes it can be a pain to sift through all the same stuff to glean some info. Our goal is to provide some highlights that we have read or seen on video from practice to give you a heads up on what is happening with the team.
Cordarrelle Patterson (CP) – In short, he is as advertised. The guys have already been raving about his skill set, with Justin Hunter even commenting that he was doing things he and Da’Rick couldn’t do. That’s scary. This kid is a beast and should contribute immediately to the Vols’ potent offense. Had a couple of impressive grabs on film including a nice one handed crossing route. Look for him to make a big splash this fall camp.
Justin Hunter – Word is he is 100% + some. Seems to have recovered and is even faster and stronger than before. Cuts and speed are incredible on film. It is great to have him back. One report said he went up against Eric Berry in some 1 on 1 drills and made EB fall down… twice.
Da’Rick Rodgers – Our 2011 All-SEC first teamer is living up to his role. He is apparently helping out younger receivers during practices and workouts, something that wasn’t even a thought last season. Also, he is stronger and faster than last year. He is working on perfecting his routes, which will translate into more options for Tyler Bray.
Cody Blanc – Blanc was one of the least hyped recruits, but one of the biggest standouts during the spring. Now, he is up to 6’3’’, 202 pounds. The kid has grown into a big target and has great hands. Another dark horse to get some early playing time (More than likely not this year barring injuries/suspensions).
Drae Bowles – At the end of workouts, Drae was one of the biggest achievers in McKeefery’s ranking system. Kid is a workhorse and on top of that has an exceptional attitude. This is a core player that will benefit everyone around him just because of his attitude. On film he looked very precise in his routes and fast off the ball.
Dante Phillips – Officially a Vol. Looks like an impressive physical specimen, although he needs to lose some weight.
Daniel McCullers – A mountain of a man for sure. 6’7’’ 380 pounds, benches 430. Great picture of him here that shows calf muscles the size of normal men’s thighs. Also looks like he’s already in pads just wearing a jersey. HUGE. Said to be in great shape and looking strong in drills.
Michael Rivera – Trimmed down over the summer and has gotten much faster. He’s on the Mackey Award Watch List for this season, which honors the best Tight End in the nation. If he doubles his numbers from last year, which will be hard to do with so many receiving threats, he will break Jason Witten’s record for receiving yards by a Tight End. Nonetheless, another valuable weapon for the offense.
Jason Croom – Another one of McKeefery’s highest scorers in summer workouts. Looked very strong on film and also had a great one-handed grab.
Kenneth Bynum – Listed at 6’1’’, 246. That is SOLID. He was also impressing coaches with his workouts and has reportedly been very strong in drills.
Tiny Richardson – 6’6’’, 330, benches 465. Has been great in drills and is emerging as one of the vocal leaders for the Vols. The coaches are looking forward to seeing the battles in the trenches with him and McCullers.
Rajon Neal – Worked out with the Oline during the summer, and his numbers show that. He maxed on bench press at 415 pounds. He did 24 reps of 225 and squatted 560. Those are RIDICULOUS numbers for a college RB. Coaches have said all along that he has all the tools to be a great running back but just has to work on ball security. After an impressive spring, Neal had a fumble in the O&W game. He has focused on correcting these mistakes, and has been working solely at RB instead of getting some work at WR. Neal will be the starter headed into camp, but if ball security continues to be an issue, no workout numbers will overcome that deficit.
Tyler Bray – Obviously under a large amount of scrutiny for recent incidents, but seems to be putting those behind him. Reports are that he is a tremendous leader on the field, and Dooley was highly complementary of how Bray ran the offense on the first day. Here’s what we all forget, these football players are just kids in college. They are going to make dumb decisions but we expect more of them. I think Tyler was making great strides to be an off the field leader and this was a set back. He needs to learn from this and focus more on football than college life. Tough for a kid to do, but has to be done. My major concern for Bray is that he relies too much on his physical gifts rather than being a student of the game. He has not performed against any elite competition yet, and I think that will define his legacy at UT when it is all said and done. We all know he can throw, but can he make the decisions and check downs against all-star defenses and lead the Vols to victory against Top 25 talent? Remains to be seen. Let’s hope he keeps his head on straight this Fall and removes that doubt from people’s minds.
Wildcat – Both the Returning Squad (Marlin Lane) and the Newcomers (Justin King) ran some Wildcat yesterday. Chaney is looking for any creative way to get the running game going this year, however I think the Oline will handle much of that this year.
Return Game – Dooley said CP, Q. Watson, Borque, and Pig will all get looks at returner this year. We have many more options than Devrin Young at that position, however, DY is a very viable option as well.
Run Game – Dooley commented that while guys have been improving, this is an area that needs to work itself out over the course of camp. Look for Neal and Lane to be in the drivers seat for the starting position, with Neal being the slight favorite. The Vols have several options here so this will be a fluid position moving forward.
Herman Lathers – Has stepped up to be both an incredible leader on and off the field. Players have rallied around him setting up BBQs and white water rafting trips, and have really bonded together. On the field, coaches have praised his work ethic returning from a significant ankle fracture. He is looking much stronger and anchoring the LB core. Dooley is very excited about the LBs, and if the past is any indicator, Dooley doesn’t blow positive smoke about anything.
AJ Johnson – Coaches have been impressed with his workout progress as he has lost 10 pounds of fat and is much stronger. They comment often about how he is just special and going to be a great player, even after being Freshman All-American. He is going to be a wrecking ball in Sal’s defensive scheme.
Start of last year - 250 : This year – 240
Daniel Hood – Dooley was excited about his progress and looks for him to impress the defensive coaches this fall. DLine is an area of concern, so Hood stepping up and making an impact will be a big help to the Vols.
James Stone – Back snapping right handed under center and left handed for shotgun. I am not a fan of this confusion but as long as he practices like he plays it will work out. One has to wonder what will happen when Bray calls an audible to the shotgun what will happen. Legally he can switch hands, but I can see it causing some presnap headaches.
Darin Gooch – Got some work during the first team drills at center and several commented he did very well. May be a name to watch if Stone can’t put everything together.
Alex Bullard – Is back on the line and getting work at left tackle. I am not thrilled about this addition. Granted he is a solid contributor and tough competitor, but his attitude has been terrible all summer. He took a “break” from team workouts, and basically didn’t think he wanted to play football anymore. I think he may get passed in the Fall competition but maybe he can get his mind right and start working hard again.
We will do our best to update throughout camp so you can get your Vols preseason fix here. Continue to look for links on Facebook and Twitter. Things are looking good in Knoxville! GBO!