NCAA Football News

Tennessee Volunteers Football: Week 1 Fall Camp Stock Report

Bolstered by all 32 newcomers and eager to return the program to prominence, the Tennessee Volunteers took the practice field to get ready for the season opener against Utah State.

Finally, football is here.

A week into drills, things have gone about as expected as coach Butch Jones has walked the thin line between encouragement and outrage.

The positive vibes come from the newcomers, but for somebody as admittedly impatient as Jones, the surliness emerges when the Vols take too long catching on to fundamentals.

With Chuckie Keeton and the Aggies looming just 23 days away, there's no time to waste.

Jones banned his players from the privilege of speaking to the media Monday, and they responded with a strong practice in pads Tuesday. The tough-love approach is necessary to getting away from the losing mentality that has taken root in Knoxville.

GoVols247's Ryan Callahan (subscription required) talked to Jones about the tests of the first week:

They’re being challenged—not only on the field, but, again, this being the final week of classes, so they have papers due. They have final examinations coming up. So I think it's just a combination of a lot of things, but I was very pleased in the way they fought through it today. But (it's) not fighting through it. It's more in how you attack the day, and I thought that they attacked the day exceptionally well.

August is going to be full of bumps in the road for such a young, inexperienced team. But absorbing the frustrating news with the positive is going to be something Vols fans need to get used to.

After all, as many as 20-22 youngsters could suit up for UT, and in the SEC pressure cooker, things are going to heat up quickly. Let's take a look at the buzz surrounding the first week of practice.

 

A Shaky Start for Signal-Callers

No Tennessee quarterback has separated himself from the others yet. While that's hardly unexpected a week into fall camp, it's definitely a concern.

A familiar theme echoed throughout the complex—the players who are supposed to be the offensive leaders are far too inconsistent.

Timing isn't where it needs to be, passes aren't on-point and the Vols must elevate the level of play as soon as possible.

The Daily Times' Dargan Southard noted UT had 62 balls hit the ground in the first practice, a number that shrank to 45 in the second practice. Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian said he would like to see that number "in the 20s."

"I need much more consistency at the quarterback position right now," Bajakian said. 

Joshua Dobbs and Nathan Peterman have gotten a lot of action, but it would be a major surprise if anybody beat Justin Worley for the starting job. 

The media only get to watch a small portion of practice, and at least one practice observer—former UT receiver and Knoxville radio personality Jayson Swain—has been extremely impressed by the transformation of Worley from a season ago.

Still, Jones told Volquest.com's Brent Hubbs (subscription required) UT's signal-callers must make "monumental strides."

The Vols need for somebody to leave no doubt he's the starter. The longer the competition goes, the concern grows about the trio's inability to seize control of the job.

 

Youngsters Look Like Young Stars

As Jones allowed several of his prized freshmen to speak to the media—something uncommon from the past several seasons on Rocky Top—one thing became clear: Several of these kids are wise beyond their years. 

The Vols just hope they play beyond them.

"It's gonna be a slow process," UT freshman safety Todd Kelly Jr. told GoVols247's Wes Rucker. "It's a learning process. We just got here. We've only been here for about a month and a half. Ultimately we just want to make this program [a] better place."

Kelly looks like he's going to be one of the players who will get that opportunity quickly. Rucker noted T.K. is now running with the second-team defense at one of the safety spots.

With former walk-on Devaun Swafford the only player blocking his path to starting, that could happen sooner rather than later.

Freshman running back Jalen Hurd also has been impressive, and he was made available for interviews this week as well. That is yet another clear indication of how much the Vols will be depending on him right away.

The 6'3", 221-pound freshman hasn't overtaken Marlin Lane for the starting spot, but he is firmly entrenched as the backup and will get plenty of carries.

At that height, it's common for detractors to question whether Hurd can get low enough to be effective. But the Hendersonville, Tennessee, native who idolizes Eddie George urged his doubters to come see him answer their concerns.

Hurd was electrifying during spring practice, and he has picked up right where he left off when fall drills started. JC Shurburtt of 247Sports has Hurd on his SEC true freshman All-American watch list.

Freshmen such as Ethan Wolf, Josh Malone and Dimarya Mixon, who arrived before spring practice, are continuing their strong surges toward the top of the depth chart.

Various reports have mentioned positive vibes from other freshmen summer arrivals. Slot receiver Vic Wharton, defensive linemen Dewayne Hendrix and Derek Barnett as well as outside linebacker Dillon Bates all have drawn significant praise.

According to Rucker defensive line coach Steve Stripling said this about Hendrix and Barnett:

"I think Barnett and Hendrix have jumped out, and they’re showing that I think they’re mature enough and physical enough at this point to where we’ll see where they can end up on the depth chart."

The Vols are going to need them all, and even though they haven't been at UT long, the opportunity is there to play immediately. With no jobs safe, those kids are taking advantage.

 

Smith Surging and Updates on Other Position Battles

Like most true freshmen, receiver Josh Smith had no business playing a year ago. He finished a forgettable season with 12 catches for 182 yards and a touchdown, but he also had crucial drops at key times.

That's why he said he didn't really deserve to get on the field at all last year, especially after a knee injury hobbled him throughout the second half of the season.

This fall, the 6'1", 197-pound sophomore Knoxville native is making the most of a new year. According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown, Smith has been starting in UT's base three-wide receiver sets along with Marquez North and Von Pearson.

In other words, in a crowded, talented Vols receiving corps, he is starting over stud freshman Josh Malone and redshirt sophomore Jason Croom. He has been extremely impressive so far.

As for other position battles:

  • Pearson is getting all the first-team reps in the slot, in front of last year's starter, Alton "Pig" Howard, Johnathon Johnson and Wharton. Pearson hasn't minced words when talking to the media about UT's receivers, either.
  • Swafford earned a scholarship this offseason, and thus far, he is the other starting safety alongside Brian Randolph, taking the place of incumbent LaDarrell McNeil. But Kelly is breathing down his neck.
  • According to Volquest.com writer Paul Fortenberry's depth chart, Danny O'Brien and Jordan Williams are getting the first-team reps at defensive tackle. Trevarris Saulsberry missed the spring, but he will be a major factor once he gets in shape.
  • The Knoxville News-Sentinel's Ben Frederickson (subscription required) reported that fifth-year senior and former walk-on Jacob Gilliam is still leading Dontavius Blair in the battle to be UT's starting left tackle. Blair has gotten in shape and looks much better than he did in the spring, however.
  • Fortenberry's depth chart also notes freshman Emmanuel Moseley firmly entrenched as the No. 2 cornerback, and Justin Coleman is the nickel.
  • If any freshmen are going to crack the starting rotation on the defensive line, it'll likely be Hendrix or Barnett. They've drawn huge praise from coaches so far, and Jones told Brown on Thursday that Barnett "has elevated the defensive line play."

 

Roundup From Rocky Top (News & Notes)

Tennessee received a major commitment over last weekend when 2016 4-star quarterback Austin Kendall of Waxhaw, N.C., pledged to the Vols. He is the nation's No. 9 pro-style passer in next year's cycle, according to the 247 Composite.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Brown, UT receiver Cody Blanc ruptured his Achilles tendon and will miss the season. Blanc was not a factor for significant playing time.

Freshman lineman Jashon Robertson has shifted from the defensive line to offensive line, where he is practicing as a guard, according to a report from GoVols247's Ryan Callahan.

The Daily Beacon reported junior defensive tackle Allan Carson has graduated and "decided to move on," according to UT spokesman Jimmy Stanton. Carson has never played very much at UT and didn't figure into the rotation.

 

All recruiting rankings and statistics courtesy of 247Sports Composite. All statistics gathered from CFBStats.com.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter here:

 

@Brad_Shepard

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Georgia Bulldogs Football: Week 1 Fall Camp Stock Report

Breakout newcomers, physical practices and injuries dominated headlines this week as the Georgia Bulldogs opened up fall camp.  If you missed any of the flurry of activities, here is what you need to know to get up to speed.

 

New Bulldogs Making Impressions

A number of new Bulldogs are already making impressions.  Shattle Fenteng (a cornerback JUCO transfer) has acquitted himself nicely (when healthy and fully participating) and already is climbing the depth chart. Fellow defensive back J.J. Green told Seth Emerson of Macon's Telegraph that Fenteng's length presents a unique challenge for receivers.  Georgia certainly could use a viable cornerback opposite senior Damian Swann.  

Meanwhile, one of the less-heralded newcomers on campus, Isaiah McKenzie, is establishing himself as one of the team's smaller (in stature) stars at just 5'8".  Green (who's quickly becoming one of Georgia's best sound bite generators) told Chip Towers of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "That guy's gonna make somebody some money someday."

And of course Lorenzo Carter (the Dawgs' top commitment in this year's class per 247Sports) is also holding his own.  Carter, who was highly coveted coming out of high school thanks to his size, strength and athleticism is looking every bit the future star that many have anticipated.  While the Dawgs may be blessed with a plethora of talented pass-rushers, Carter will be too good to ignore.

And, his aggressive disposition has already been noticed—in more ways than one.  According to Emerson (for the the Ledger-Enquirer), Carter participated in a little extracurricular jostling with offensive tackle John Theus this week.  Linebacker Jordan Jenkins explained that the situation didn't get too out of hand, but he said he wouldn't be surprised to see Carter "get into it with somebody again real soon."

 

Physical Practices

Those types of altercations are a byproduct of the intensity with which Georgia is practicing. 

Earlier this week, freshman running back Nick Chubb became a viral celebrity after toppling fullback Merritt Hall during a blocking drill.

 But as this footage (captured by Emerson) shows, it's not just the newcomers who are going hard this fall.  

 

Injuries Piling Up...Again

The heightened intensity of fall camp is already taking a physical toll on Georgia's roster.  Mark Richt is no longer offering full injury reports to the media (per Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald), but a number of Bulldogs have missed time or been limited in participation so far this fall:

  • Malcolm Mitchell, Wide Receiver
  • Chris Conley, Wide Receiver
  • Justin Scott-Wesley, Wide Receiver
  • Ramik Wilson, Linebacker
  • Leonard Floyd, Linebacker
  • Shattle Fenteng, Cornerback
  • Jay Rome, Tight End
  • Jordan Davis, Tight End
  • Ryne Rankin, Linebacker

 

Week 2 Storylines

Georgia will get its first scrimmage out of the way this week, and that could present big opportunities for players to climb the depth chart—especially with so many banged-up starters.  Look for strong performances from proven playmakers like Reggie Davis and Quayvon Hicks on the offensive side of the ball as they seek to work up a crowded list of offensive options.  On defense, expect sophomore Reggie Carter to continue asserting himself as a viable substitute for either Ramik Wilson or Amarlo Herrera at the inside linebacker spot.

After the scrimmage, expect new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's defense to look different as far as personnel is concerned.  Pruitt has placed an emphasis on getting opportunities for players and ensuring that the best 11 men are on the field.  Pruitt will find ways—even through position changes—to showcase his most talented players.  He's already been doing this frequently within the secondary, moving cornerbacks to safety and vice versa.  But, time is running out for such impactful position changes.  Moves will need to be made sooner rather than later.

Hopefully this is a week of mending for some of Georgia's best players.  Outside of the injury to Mitchell and the prolonged recovery of Scott-Wesley, no ailments appear likely to sideline Georgia stars for long.  But the team needs players like Rome, Floyd, Wilson and Conley at full speed in order to take strides forward.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.

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Florida Football: Week 1 Fall Camp Stock Report

The Florida Gators are one week deep into fall camp and seven days closer to the regular season taking place. Ladies and gentlemen, football is back.

The first week of camp usually gets off to a slow start, as players are just getting back into the daily grind and rhythm of the upcoming season. However, there are a few interesting updates and one scary report that just came out of Gainesville.

Florida is 22 days away from the regular season kicking off, but who’s counting?

 

Close Call

The biggest news of Florida’s fall camp so far was the injury to star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. You can just hear a collective gasp throughout the Gator community.

According to Iliana Limon Romero of the Orlando Sentinel, Hargreaves injured his knee after a scuffle broke out between defensive backs and wide receivers during “Oklahoma drills.”

Trainers put ice on Hargreaves’ knee and carted him off the field. Florida fans can breathe a little easier knowing that their top defensive player’s injury isn’t as serious as initially thought.

Florida experienced countless injuries last season, and the last thing it needed was for its top player to miss a significant amount of time. A serious injury would have doomed the season before it even began. Granted, a bone bruise is painful and will keep him out of practice for a while, but it certainly beats a torn ACL or anything broken.

As for the scuffle, it just goes to show that players are competing at the highest level and excited for the season to begin. As a coach, you like players to get a little testy during practice. However, this close call is going to remind everybody that they need to use their heads a little more before lashing out.

 

Quarterback Update

Only a week into practice and there’s a lot of love going on for quarterback Jeff Driskel.

Driskel seems to have adjusted nicely to the shotgun formation, a style of offense that will benefit him more under offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. He struggled a little bit with the transition in the spring game, often getting happy feet and simply looking uncomfortable when the pressure got to him.

Muschamp likes what he sees from the Gators' starting quarterback.

Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports considered Driskel one of his top performers of Florida’s most recent practice:

Driskel was sharp throughout the evening, though there were still a handful of passes he could have put better touch on. In early two-minute work, he connected with freshman tight end DeAndre Goolsby for a 20-yard touchdown pass in the right corner of the end zone over a defender. Later in pass skeleton work, he floated a perfect corner route to the left sideline between two defenders to Valdez Showers. He also connected with tight end Jake McGee on a 35-yard touchdown pass between two defenders on a slightly underthrown ball. In 11-on-11 work, he hit receiver Demarcus Robinson on a 35-yard touchdown pass on a fly down the right sideline.

Driskel threw more touchdowns in that paragraph than he did all of last season. If he can continue to mature in this offense and find the end zone on a consistent basis, there’s no question the Gators will be a team to pay attention to this season.

 

Running Back Depth 

While so much attention has been given to Driskel and the quarterback position, it seems like a lot of folks are ignoring Florida’s situation at running back.

It’s good and deep. One Florida player considers the backfield to be elite status, per Thomas Goldkamp.

"I would look at top to bottom and just like, I couldn't be a coach and have to decide this person is gonna start and this person is going to start," offensive tackle D.J. Humphries said.

Kelvin Taylor added about 10 pounds of muscle during the offseason and is a lot faster than he was as a freshman. Taylor is now pretty confident he would beat his father, Fred Taylor, in a race, according to Robbie Andreu of Gainesville.com:

“Somebody tweeted something like, 'Did Kelvin Taylor steal some of his dad's speed this summer?'” Taylor said. “I feel like I've gotten a whole lot faster, working with the speed program we had this summer and just training hard, working really hard.”

Florida has also experienced the return of Matt Jones, who looks sharp in camp after missing spring ball with an injury.

On paper, Florida has one of the better backfields in the country, and if it lives up to its potential, it would be good enough to help improve this offense drastically from a year ago.

All positive vibes so far from the Florida Gators.  

 

Extra Point

Check out Nick Washington interviewing some of his teammates. Spoiler alert: You'll learn something about Michael Taylor you never knew before. 

Until next week. 

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UCLA Football: Week 1 Fall Practice Stock Report

The first week of fall practice for Jim Mora and the UCLA football team has gone smoothly thus far. It's a continued progression for this program—as it hopes to feature in a BCS bowl game for the first time since 1999.

In terms of position battles, there aren't too many. I'd say that this is truly indicative of the depth Mora and staff have built up. 

Detailed below will be various storylines thus far from camp. It will include an injury update, suspension news, schematic changes and more. 

 

Suspensions of 3 Freshmen

As the team began practice in San Bernardino this past Monday, some bad news broke in regards to three incoming freshmen. 

Wide receiver Jordan Lasley, linebacker Dwight Williams and quarterback Aaron Sharp have all been suspended due to what Mora termed as "not living up to the standards that we're looking for during the summer months."

The trio is unable to participate in the fall camp and will rejoin the team after UCLA's opening game versus Virginia. 

This development certainly isn't a positive by any stretch. Williams, Lasley and Sharp will now be put behind the proverbial eight ball in terms of learning not only the system and schemes but also how the program operates. Fortunately for the Bruins, none of the freshmen were considered potential contributors this year.

 

Injury Update

There haven't been many injuries occurring during the camp. However, Mora did deliver some news publicly about various members of the team not participating at all in San Bernardino. 

Both Darren Andrews and Johnny Johnson are out for the season, reported by Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News. Andrews will undergo microfracture knee surgery, while Johnson will sit out another season due to shoulder ailments. Ian Taubler has also retired due to injury. 

Tackle Simon Goines will undergo minor ankle surgery, according to Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times. 

It's been a frustrating last few seasons for the talented lineman. Goines has been beset by both knee and ankle injuries for the duration of his time in Westwood. At the beginning of camp in San Bernardino, he sat out the first few days as a means of precaution. Apparently, the rest didn't make much of a difference. 

Goines was projected by many as the potential starting right tackle. However, the development of Caleb Benenoch has helped to assuage any possible concerns at the position. Conor McDermott, Poasi Moala and Ben Wysocki are also all capable of manning the position, if need be. 

Freshman linebacker Cameron Griffin suffered a separated shoulder earlier in the week. Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register reported that the potential prognosis doesn't look too good.

Aside from a few nicks and bruises, Griffin has sustained the only serious injury in camp up to this point. 

 

A New Left Tackle?

Benenoch began the camp at left tackle, with transfer Malcolm Bunche slotted in at left guard. 

As the week progressed, Bunche slid over to left tackle—and apparently has won the job. Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm was very effusive in his praise of the veteran lineman. 

As Klemm said, "he seems very comfortable at the position. He's a grown man, he's mature and a lot different than the other guys. He's a joy to have in the room."

Bunche truly does offer UCLA a great deal of flexibility. During his time at Miami, he competed at both guard and tackle. Based on the injury situation, he could slot in realistically anywhere on the line, save for center. As a fifth-year senior, he's also providing a veteran presence for a relatively young group. 

Starting defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes called Bunche "a monster with dad strength." At 6'7" and 327 pounds, he's the biggest offensive lineman on the roster. 

 

Defensive Scheme Change?

It appears as if UCLA will be "more multiple" when it comes to a defensive scheme this upcoming year. This is necessitated by the strengths of the roster.

In 2013, the base defense was a 3-4. The Bruins operated out of it most of the time in order to maximize the ability of pass-rushers such as Cassius Marsh and Anthony Barr. 

There's a dearth of pure pass-rushers currently on the team. However, the defensive line is absolutely loaded up front. A quartet of Vanderdoes, Ellis McCarthy, Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Kenny Clark likely ranks as one of the best in the entire country. 

In nickel situations, UCLA could opt to use linebackers Kenny Orjioke and Deon Hollins in rushing roles off the edge (similar to that of Barr last year). Additionally, the versatility of McCarthy and Vanderdoes also allows for UCLA to run a 3-3-5. 

In the secondary, look for sophomores Tahaan Goodman and Priest Willis to battle it out for the "fifth" starting spot in the secondary. 

 

Freshmen Standouts

Of the true freshmen in camp, several have flashed their big-time abilities from high school.

Wide receivers coach Eric Yarber believes that wide receiver Alex Van Dyke can figure into the mix as a red-zone target. Yarber also has been impressed with Van Dyke's speed and quickness. Kartje too feels as if Van Dyke has a lot of potential

Ed Lewis of BruinSportsReport has been very high on defensive back Jaleel Wadood. Linebacker Kenny Young has also impressed. His hitting ability has been noted, despite the lack of full pads thus far in practice. 

Vanderdoes gushed about defensive end Matt Dickerson, speaking about his pass-rushing abilities and overall size. He likened the Serra High School product to "a bigger Cassius Marsh."

With the transfer of Kylie Fitts, I'd assume that Dickerson will see time right away in the rotation. 

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