Vols were in pads for the first time today, and Dooley believed things went well. Obviously it is important for the guys to get used to playing fast in the gear they wear on gameday, so it was an important transition.
The consensus from today’s practice was that the Oline was dominant. This resulted in the run game producing in a big way on the first day of real contact, a very positive sign for the future. The OLine has something to prove after last year and hopefully they do so throughout the season. Problem with doing well when playing yourself is, someone had to do poorly. The DLine found themselves missing assignments and getting blown off the line today, as reported by both offensive and defensive players. While this is concerning, it is a new system so some lag will be present. We just have to hope that Sal can fix some of the mistakes before the 31st. Marlon Walls was under the impression that Coach Sal would “Rip them tonight,” for missing gaps, which is a great thing. Only way to correct mistakes is to first make them, so the players will learn what not to do again.
Coach Palmero (Pictured above) – Players are highly complimentary of his coaching techniques. They are saying he is more detail oriented, telling them where to put their hands, angle their body, ect. He seemed to have several one on one sessions with McCullers teaching him various aspects of using his size for leverage and working on his foot placement. This is a great sign because games are won and lost in the trenches.
Coach Ansley – Was doing a lot of instructing during drills. The DBs look very fast, and have good hip rotation. However these observations are all moot until they go against live competition. Look for significant improvement this year under Ansley however, as the opinion of previous Coach Joseph was that he was a great recruiter, but a mediocre coach at best. One ESPN writer predicted our secondary would be 10th in the nation by the end of the year. Bold statement but I certainly hope it comes true.
Coach Graham – Watching this guy coach these kids through drills really gets me fired up. He demands excellence, and you can tell the kids respect him and want to make an impression. It should not be hard to improve from the abysmal 2.8 yards per carry mark set last year, but I expect the RBs to have a completely different attitude this year, courtesy of Graham’s coaching style. Probably my favorite hire for the Vols in the offseason.
Brent Brewer – Seems to have recovered well from his ACL injury last year. Said he was about “80 - 85%.” Rehabbed in the offseason with Justin Hunter and said that this pushed him to be faster. Ran his fastest 40 time since being at UT this summer with a time of 4.43. That is excellent speed for a safety. Brewer can be a major contributor to this defense so a solid training camp is vital for his return.
Dante Omari Phillips – Apparently goes by Omari now since the summer. Other than trimming down coaches seem to think he is doing well and going to be a valuable addition to the Dline.
Da’Rick Rodgers – Reporting his weight at 208. Says he is much faster at this weight and feels like it translates to a more explosive game. Was very impressed with Hunter’s progress and also the emergence of CP.
Ball Security Drill – One of the best things to watch from today’s practice was the defense running through ball security drills in preparation for turnovers. The DL and LBs were getting after each other hard, hitting and trying to rip the ball out as hard as they could, namely Curt Maggit. He was jumping on top of players just to shake things up. It’s great to see these guys pushing each other to go hard. Often, the veterans just go through the motions with mundane drills because they have done them so many times before, but these players are enjoying getting better individually and as a team.
Michael Palardy – There was a long post practice interview with him but I didn’t watch it for one reason, his talk about improving and getting better means nothing until he can prove it in a game. I feel like much of what has been reported here has been positive, but this is one area that is a glaring deficiency for the Vols. While most programs don’t have elite special teams, this can be the difference between a W and an L. So until Palardy goes out and can kick it over the line, I will save my optimism. He was the number 1 kicker coming out of high school, and should have only gotten stronger, so one can only hope he will improve (Shouldn’t be hard) or Dooley makes the switch to Bullock or Brodus.
Wildcat – The Vols continued work on the wildcat and triple option with both units, but Dooley and Marlin Lane mentioned they didn’t know how much they would use this in the offense during the season. I think this is really a safety valve to get the run game going, which hopefully will not be a problem behind a much-improved line.
Devrin Young – Watching RB drills, DY is working hard to get more touches, and he is lightning quick. Seriously couldn’t tell when his feet were touching the ground. He was one of the weaker blockers though, which is a given based on his size. This limits his rep capacity at RB. However, Coach Graham is keeping an open mind going into the season so DY may be more involved in the offense this year.
Freshman RBs – Alden Hill – Big downhill runner, needs to work on footwork : Davante Borque – Extremely fast and great footwork, ball security should be his area of improvement : Q. Watson – Excellent footwork and lateral movement, the most mobile of the three
Pig Howard – Has been at practice but has been on crutches and remains in a protective boot on his left foot recovering from surgery. He is supposedly coming along well with rehab but this was a disappointing injury as he was having a very impressive summer. Look for him to make an impact on special teams or certain packages if he can heal well.
Daniel McCullers – Word continues that he is very large and healthy, but needs significant technique work. I mentioned earlier that Palmero was spending a large amount of time in practice working with McCullers, and I think this is because how important his development will be to the success of the 4-3 defense. On video he looks to have slow footwork and poor lateral movement. While this isn’t a major area of need for Nose Tackle, it is still necessary to be effective. Dooley praised his work ethic and attitude thus far, so maybe he can progress rapidly, however his development may be slower than most fans would like.
Justin Coleman – After an early start and rapid decline last year, Coleman is working to put the past behind him and move into a solid starter position. Dooley complimented his work ethic and physical tools, but the main problem for Coleman was consistency. He seemed to get caught almost every time he was out of position, and that resulted in big plays from his assignment. With a year under his belt, and young guys looking for PT, I am hoping he can put the mental side of the game together with his physical tools, and move forward.
Kenneth Bynum - Looked solid in pads, but his footwork was in need of some work. While the starting positions are undoubtedly set at LB, the numbers there are thin so Bynum could be forced into some early playing time. He will need to work on this moving forward.
Drae Bowles – Gives 100% every rep, all out, every time. Finishes every play hard. I absolutely love this kid’s work ethic. After two drops in a row by other players, Drae lined up and several watching said, “He’ll catch it.” He did.
Maurice Couch – While he had a decent showing his first year from JUCO, look for Big Mo to have a breakout year. Palmero is very impressed by his abilities, and thinks he can be one of the best line prospects he has ever coached, a major compliment from a guy with 35 years of coaching experience at both the collegiate and professional level.
The two units will be combining tomorrow and everyone is anxious to see how the two will integrate and compete. Check back for more updates as camp progresses.