The Tennessee football team has practiced six times since beginning their 2019 fall camp last Friday.
On Thursday, three players spoke with the media for the first time a few hours before the Vols hit the practice field.
Among them were senior wide receivers Jauan Jennings and Brandon Johnson, as well as redshirt junior offensive offensive lineman Ryan Johnson. The three talked about adjustments to new members on the coaching staff, their impact on the team thus far and their own personal goals ahead of the season.
Jennings healthy, ready to compete
Tennessee returns one of the more experienced wide receiving corps in the SEC, and with players like Jauan Jennings back healthy from a knee injury sustained earlier in the offseason, it could be among the most talented.
On Thursday, Jennings discussed his recovery and that it hasn’t hindered his abilities through five practices in fall camp.
“I feel good,” Jennings said. “(I feel) way better since the surgery. I’m out there running really good, knees feel better. I’m still practicing, I’m going 100-percent. I tell coach, ‘don’t hold nothing back.”
Beyond being one of the Vols’ best playmakers, Jennings has never shied away from being one of the most vocal players, either. Heading into his redshirt-senior campaign, Jennings is looking to take his competitiveness to a whole new level.
“There’s going to be some trash talking out there, that’s what players do,” Jennings said. “I love it. It’s just another motivator. We all are making sure we try to get better everyday. There’s just a whole lot of competitiveness. It makes me better, it makes everyone better.”
Johnson benefitting from new coaching staff
Another important piece to Tennessee’s wide receiving group in senior wideout Brandon Johnson, who is making strides in his final fall camp under first-year receivers coach Tee Martin.
For Johnson, Martin has helped him create a sense of focus, which has lead to quick results in the first week of practice.
“I’ve just been focusing on what Coach Tee (Martin) has been given us to do,” Johnson said. “Just really focusing on catching a whole bunch of balls and really getting deep into the installs and things like that. He says if you do what you’re supposed to do, the right things will happen.”
Martin isn’t the only coach on the offensive side of the ball that Johnson has had to adjust too this camp and past offseason. New offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has installed a new scheme for the receiver to adjust too, as well.
I wouldn’t necessarily say (the offense) is easier to pick up,” Johnson said. “There is a lot of different terminology from last year. It’s not any easier or any harder to pick up, it really just comes down to how much time you put into it.”
Competition continues on offensive line
The biggest question for the Vols ahead of their season opener is arguably the offensive line, a unit that has been more of a liability for the team in the past couple of seasons.
Despite recruiting well at the position in the last two classes, Tennessee will still be dealing with youth, inexperience and keeping players healthy.
One of the more seasoned players on the line is junior Ryan Johnson. Being one of only two players on the entire team to start all twelve games in 2018, Johnson is looked to as one of the leaders on the offensive line, and has liked what he’s seen out of the group so far.
“Camp is going great,” Johnson said. “We’ve put in some good practices so far, getting everybody better. We’re just trying to take it day by day, but it’s definitely a process and I think a lot of people are enjoying trying to do the best they can everyday.”
While Johnson has the in-game experience from last season, his center position will come down to a battle with Alabama transfer Brandon Kennedy, who missed all of 2018 with an injury.
According to Johnson, he’s eager for the challenge and believes the competition can only help both players and the team.
“It’s great to have Brandon (Kennedy) back,” Johnson said. “It’s great to have competition. That’s a huge thing with the entire offensive line. We’ve really got some depth, so that’s great from a competition standpoint.
“We’ve got a lot of people that can help out, depth-wise. That’s just a huge asset that we can have.”