Spring Practise

UT football players during spring practice on March 31, 2018.

The Tennessee football team kicked off week two of its Spring Practice on Monday. With plenty of new additions to the team and staff, the Vols are still looking to mesh and develop in the early-goings of spring.

“I think in five practices, we’ve made lots of improvement in different areas,” head coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “It was a pretty physical day out there, which is a good thing. That’s what spring ball needs to be.”

Here’s some takeaways from the second week:

Offense ahead

Pruitt is a defensive coach. Before starting his tenure as the head coach at Tennessee, he made a name for himself as a defensive coordinator at top programs like Florida State, Georgia, and most recently, Alabama.

He has carefully worked to assemble an impressive defensive staff, with stalwarts like Derrick Ansley and Kevin Sherrer. The Vols are a team that seems to pride themselves on this defensive identity.

It isn’t the defense, though, that’s gotten off to a hot start in spring ball. According to Pruitt, the offense has raced off to a fast start, while the defense still struggles a bit.

“For the first day of pads, offensively, I thought our guys executed fairly well,” Pruitt said on Monday. “We had a couple situations in practice as far as third-down and I thought the guys did a really good job.

“I would just say that our offense kicked the defense’s about as bad as I’ve seen a full-padded practice.”

In the offseason, the Vols added a couple of experienced offensive coaches to their already admirable staff. Jim Chaney made the move to Tennessee as the offensive coordinator, following a stint at Georgia in the same position.

Tee Martin, a former national championship winning quarterback for the Vols, joined the staff as the passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach. He’s already made an impact on a position group that needs to step up its play this year.

“He’s like a quarterback. He tells us what he is looking for in a receiver,” Marquez Callaway said. “It helps us out a lot when we go with the quarterbacks.”

It should be a good sign for Tennessee fans that the offense has started so well after the struggles of last season. It ranked 121 in the nation in total offense, averaging just 325 yards per game.

Newcomers showing out

Tennessee’s 2018 season was filled with ups and downs, and plenty of inconsistency. With some areas plagued more than others, and the turnover in the coaching staff, newcomers to this year’s program will likely be relied upon in the upcoming season.

One player that has passed the eye test early is transfer Deangelo Gibbs, who joined the Vols after two years with the Georgia Bulldogs. Though he spent his career with the Bulldogs as a member of their secondary, he has made the transition to wide receiver this offseason.

Gibbs has showed out so far at a position of need for Tennessee. He has consistently been one of the top performers out of the receiver group. The passing game struggled a lot last season, amassing just 2,357 total yards and 15 touchdowns.

The only problem is that Gibbs may not be eligible to play this year due to NCAA transfer rules. If he can get a waiver, though, he could be a big help from day one.

Another newcomer to watch in the coming week is offensive lineman Wanya Morris. He was one of the most coveted gets in Tennessee’s most recent recruiting class, and he could be an early answer to the offensive line question.

With Trey Smith’s future in football still in question, and the struggles that plagued the line last season, Morris will likely be an early contributor in his first year. At 6-4 and 309 pounds, he has already garnered the praise of his teammates.

“Wanya has done well. He is a smart kid,” Marcus Tatum said. “He is big, strong and has a whole position group. We love the addition.”

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