Tennessee took to Neyland Stadium on Tuesday morning for its first scrimmage of preseason camp. Since the outing, Volunteer Country has worked to gather intel from the scrimmage, and below are the notes we have collected.
All eyes are focused on the left tackle spot, but there are more positions up for grabs than that one currently. At the left tackle spot, we had been hearing plenty of good things about both Jeremiah Crawford and Gerald Mincey, with Mincey generating the most buzz coming out of the weekend. But now, after the scrimmage, we are hearing Crawford took a nice step forward during the scrimmage. Glen Elarbee indicated this scrimmage would go a long way in deciding who earns that spot. Still, both guys repped with the ones, and despite Crawford potentially winning the day, there is still a strong chance we see them rotate early on in the season.
With Kamal Hadden out, the cornerback spot opposite Warren Burrell is up for grabs. Both Brandon Turnage and Christian Charles got reps with the 1's yesterday, but based on current intel, Charles may have the slight edge there. He is a natural athlete that has continued to flash in practice since coming out of the non-contact jersey.
Staying in the secondary, the Star position also has plenty of competition at it. Veteran Wesley Walker has looked solid to start camp, and it is possible the Georgia Tech transfer gets the nod, but Tamarion McDonald isn't making it easy. McDonald has continued to fly around and make plays all camp, and it sounds like both guys had their moments yesterday.
Not ready to call this a position battle yet, but it is certainly heading in that direction. Walker Merrill and Ramel Keyton worked with the 1s at the outside receiver opposite Cedric Tillman, and with Bru McCoy dealing with a small, nagging injury and not being eligible currently, Tennessee needs one of these guys to separate themselves. Keyton has had a strong start to camp, as has Merrill. Both have let some passes fall to the turf to this point. From what we have gathered, Merrill did catch a touchdown yesterday and did some things well. Both have to take a step forward in blocking on the edge, as this was a huge staple in Tennessee's offense last fall.
Running Back Update
This position is continuing to build depth, but Josh Heupel was complimentary of Jabari Small, Dylan Sampson and Justin Williams-Thomas. While gathering information, it sounds like Jabari Small dominated the day and may have been the overall MVP. However, Sampson did some nice things that caught the attention of folks in attendance, and Thomas had a couple of solid runs. At this stage, it appears Sampson may be poised to make an impact earlier than Thomas, but if the Vols can get Jaylen Wright healthy and Lyn-J Dixon comfortable in the offense, there is hope they can use the freshmen sparingly.
Other Notable Standouts
Heard from multiple sources that Tyler Baron had a solid day and looked comfortable playing opposite Byron Young, who also had a good outing. Freshmen James Pearce quickly turned heads to open camp, and we are told he did some nice things at times yesterday, but as to be expected, like most freshmen, he had some moments where he was out of place. Fellow freshman Josh Josephs also got plenty of work from what we are told. Jacob Warren caught a touchdown and Jeremy Banks had a nice interception on Hendon Hooker that was a better play by Banks than it was a poor throw or decision by Hooker.
Based on what we have gathered, it would suggest the offense likely had the edge for the day, but as Josh Heupel mentioned, there were definitely plenty of back-and-forths. The defense continued to develop depth and got off the field in the red zone in several tough situations. Overall, it was a pretty straightforward scrimmage that allowed Tennessee to get a lot of those depth pieces and position battles we talked about important reps. The Vols will have Wednesday off before returning to practice on Thursday-Saturday, then they will host a scrimmage on Sunday.
featured image via Tennessee Athletics