NCAA Football News
After the offseason crept by like a funeral procession, the Tennessee football team raced onto the field for its first practice of the fall Tuesday night.
It may have been the slowest the Volunteers were the entire evening.
The biggest news that came out of a very newsy night in Knoxville was the fact that everybody noticed how much bigger, more athletic and especially faster the Vols looked.
Two full-to-the-brim recruiting classes of highly ranked, SEC-caliber athletes brought in by coach Butch Jones have noticeably improved the caliber of player on Rocky Top.
Unlike UT teams of the past five or six years, this crop of Vols have benefited from coaching continuity, being in the same strength-and-conditioning program for multiple years now, and they've made physical improvements because of it. It doesn't hurt that Jones has brought in a bunch of stud prospects, too.
This looks like an SEC football team. That's something UT hasn't been able to say throughout the two-deep for some time.
In the limited time that the media got to witness and take video of practice, the speed difference was noticeable. It was one of the most noteworthy things that coach Jones pointed out afterwards, as well.
Few personify that speed difference more than running back Jalen Hurd. He bulked up to 6'3", 242 pounds over the offseason, and now fully healthy, he has elite quickness and is even more nimble on his feet than a season ago.
In the practice video posted by Rocky Top Insider, Hurd looks impressively fluid. Nobody who weighs more than 240 pounds should be able to move like that.
Hurd showed flashes of what he can do when rested and healthy during last season's TaxSlayer Bowl and again during limited Orange & White Game action. With Alvin Kamara, Ralph David Abernathy IV and a duo of freshmen in tow to spell him, there may be more of that this season.
Though Jones noted the Vols need to improve in the passing game from the first day, everything was done in a frenetic pace from the first whistle of drills. That kind of tempo is how Jones and new offensive coordinator Mike DeBord want to play, and quarterback Joshua Dobbs was pleased with the strides in that area.
He believes UT has picked up right where it left off from the spring in that regard, according to Volquest.com's Grant Ramey:
It's different, obviously Coach Jones has been here a couple years as well and our team has definitely matured a lot since I first got here. There's a great flow to practice. It's kind of like when we walked on the practice field, it's like we practiced yesterday, it wasn't like we haven't been practicing for a couple months. That was a great feeling to have.
In photos and video, few pass the eyeball test like cornerbacks Emmanuel Moseley and newcomer Justin Martin.
They're tall, long-armed and extremely fast and fluid. When you take into consideration that neither of those guys are expected to be the strong points of the secondary, it should excite you to think of that unit's potential.
Throwing athleticism such as theirs into a group that already includes senior safety starters LaDarrell McNeil and Brian Randolph, athletic youngsters Todd Kelly Jr., Evan Berry and Rashaan Gaulden as well as junior star Cameron Sutton makes the secondary almost as exciting to project as the defensive ends.
Sutton, meanwhile, started his journey to fill a major void for the Vols on Tuesday: the role of leadership. Senior Curt Maggitt is a vocal, team-rejuvenating revival preacher, but, beyond him, there are few proven stalwarts in player-leadership roles.
Showing every morsel of attention to detail, Sutton chastised the second-team defense when they didn't hustle onto the field, making them do it over. That was a moment of practice Jones praised, according to GoVols247's Wes Rucker:
We had a great leadership opportunity today, and Cam Sutton took full advantage of it. When our second-team defense didn't sprint onto the football field, he called 'em all back and had 'em re-huddle and sprint onto the football field. He said,'‘That’s not the way we do things at Tennessee,' and he took advantage of that leadership opportunity. I think just the maturation and growth of a football family, a football family, you see that.
If the Vols look like they belong among the SEC royalty and they act like it, maybe they'll play like it. There's a long way to go and a lot of practice left, but all the reports made it sound like Tuesday was a good first step.
Out with Old, In with New
Tuesday marked the official beginning of freshman Sheriron Jones' Tennessee quarterback career and the end of Jauan Jennings'.
Back in the spring game, Jennings flashed some dynamic athleticism running the option, but the former athlete prospect who was reclassified by 247Sports as a dual-threat quarterback never could get a firm grasp on throwing consistently.
Passing is sort of a necessity to play the quarterback position, and his slow development was going to put him behind the competition with Dobbs entrenched as the starter, classmates Jones and Quinten Dormady in the fold and all the exceptional recruiting UT is doing at that position.
Already this year, the Vols have a commitment from 4-star Jarrett Guarantano. Top-rated 2017 passer Hunter Johnson is high on Tennessee (per Rucker), as is top-rated 2018 prospect Trevor Lawrence, who has called UT his early leader (per 247Sports' Barton Simmons).
Therefore, Jennings was removed from the quarterback derby, and after his first day at wide receiver Tuesday, he may have found his new home.
The 6'4", 200-pound first-year player is a first-class athlete, and he made some catches that had coaches raving about his potential despite being very raw.
Butch Jones continued by saying to the Associated Press' Steve Megargee on Jennings: "He made some catches today where you kind of did a double-take and it got you excited. For Day 1, I was very, very, very encouraged with him."
As for Sheriron Jones, he's undersized, which would set things up for a redshirt season if he can't beat out Dormady for the backup duties. But the California kid has some workable tools. The few practice videos posted show a quick release and accurate downfield throwing from Jones.
Rocky Top Insider's Daniel Lewis had this to say about the freshman: "Jones made some good throws, no doubt about it. He had more command at the position than what we saw from Jauan Jennings in the the spring. He can really throw the football when he’s on. He clearly had his freshman moments as well, missing some guys from time to time and misunderstanding some routes."
As of right now, though, it appears Dormady has a grasp on the No. 2 job pretty firmly.
"But I was really, really pleased with Quinten," Butch Jones said, according to GoVols247's Ryan Callahan. "I thought Quinten did some really good things, and just the growth and maturation from spring football. You could kind of see the momentum from the spring game kind of carry over into Practice One.”
D-Line Looking Fine
If the Vols get quality play from their defensive tackles, it's going to be a very good season on Rocky Top.
Those are huge question marks considering UT must get key reps from true freshmen Shy Tuttle and Kahlil McKenzie at literally one of the two or three most difficult positions to play in your first year.
But, man, those two kids are massive.
It's hard not to get excited about their potential. McKenzie's legs look like oak stumps, and Tuttle has transformed from the cushy kid who arrived back in the winter to a grown man. Neither look like he's a freshman.
It's hard to tell anything about the physicality of your team without wearing pads, but these linemen have been around each other all offseason. So, when you've got a sophomore like Derek Barnett who was the nation's best freshman lineman a year ago praising you publicly, you've probably accomplished something.
Barnett knows what it takes to burst onto the scene, and he said Tuesday that McKenzie has what it takes.
When you couple that with the flashes Tuttle showed this spring and the fact that he's been working out for the past three months getting stronger, the sky is the limit for this UT line from a talent perspective.
Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.
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When the Texas Longhorns begin fall camp Friday, the quarterback battle between Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard will dominate the discussion.
But this season's fall camp is about so much more than that. This is our first look at what a full-blown head coach Charlie Strong recruiting class looks like and what sort of attitude it brings to the program. It's also a chance to see what sort of magic offensive coordinator Joe Wickline can work after a full offseason with mostly the same group of guys.
Sure, the quarterback deserves our attention. It's the game's most important position, and the Horns have figured out how to underwhelm the entire country at it for five years in a row.
So follow what happens between Swoopes and Heard, but don't overlook what's happening elsewhere.
The pressure is mostly on quarterbacks and a few head coaches throughout the Big Ten heading into the 2015 college football season.
Ohio State and Michigan State open up as the overwhelming favorites to win the conference given their preseason rankings at No. 5 and No. 6 in the Amway Coaches Poll, but the rest of the Big Ten is riddled with uncertainty.
Outside of the Buckeyes’ J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones and the Spartans’ Connor Cook, every team in the Big Ten is in danger of potentially unsteady play at quarterback. This also includes Penn State and junior Christian Hackenberg, who is entering his third season under center in State College, Pennsylvania.
Several coaches, like Illinois’ Tim Beckman, are in critical need of strong seasons, or they could be looking for a new job.
These make up the bulk of issues across the conference, but there remain a few other unique obstacles for certain programs. Here is a look at the biggest question facing each Big Ten school this upcoming season.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was adored by Oregon Ducks fans during his days in college.
And now, he will be sorely missed.
This little Oregon fan in the video above was just enjoying a nice bowl of morning cereal when his dad dropped a (necessary) bomb on him: Mariota isn’t coming back.
Hearing the names of the Heisman Trophy winner’s potential replacements—Jeff Lockie and Vernon Adams—didn’t console the saddened youngster. He just wants Mariota back.
Sorry, little guy. We feel for you.
[YouTube, h/t College Spun]
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