Tennessee hit the one-third mark of its spring camp Friday, and positional groups as well as individuals are fully emerging.
Before we dive into that, however, let’s note a couple quick things on the early movements of new Vice Chancellor/Director of Athletics John Currie, who was in Knoxville Thursday night for the Vols’ NFL Pro Day reception with NFL scouts, G.M.s and others.
Trnnessee’s Pro Day participants began also arriving Thursday evening, with Josh Malone telling me he had worked out for both the Panthers and Saints. Malone made clear he was not going to run today, but he also said he believed he could run a 4.39, as had been his goal, just slightly better than the 4.40 he ran at the combine.
IT was Tennessee’s largest-attended Pro Day since the 2013 affair that featured, most notably, Justin Hunter, Tyler Bray & Da’Rick Rogers, as well as Mychal Rivera.
On the field this camp, two offensive elements continue to shine day after day: the vastly improved, deeper & more talented offensive line, which as a staffer told me “easily could go eight, nine deep” with no drop-off.
And John Kelly “is a flat-out stud.” It still will be different for Kelly as THE GUY, and that makes the battle for the No. 2 & No. 3 spots all the more important.
Tennessee’s receivers need to find their overall consistency.
Trey Smith is handling some left and right tackle work, which always is impressive; all the more so since he’s just now coming up on his first 100 days on Rocky Top. And even in limited scope, it’s clear this entire offensive line unit is prepped to be considerably more physical.
Darrin Kirkland Jr. looks bigger, better, much healthier; Alexis Johnson is, frankly, in exponentially better shape and moving solidly. Darrell Taylor, whom I’ve been touting more than a year, is my early breakout-player of spring favorite on the defensive side of the ball.
Both Brady Hoke & Bob Shoop this week praised the role of Steve Stripling and of Stripling staying on staff.
The QBs continue to impress; both of them. It’s shifting more toward game management and game-like situations more in the coming days, which will amplify matters for both Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano. Will McBride continues to be a pleasant surprise. Gritty, competitive, coachable and throws a nice ball is what I’ve heard the most on the midyear rookie.
BACK TO CURRIE
It’s been a roller-coaster week on Rocky Top as Dave Hart has moved out and Currie has prepared to move into the lead office.
Hart hosted 60-plus student-athletes at his home this week to say, “Thank you.” All sports were represented. Hart also hosted essentially the athletics department’s entire group of secretaries and support staff. Veteran administrative assistant Marzella Allen, a fixure in UT athletics the past couple decades, likewise exited UT this week, permanently. It was a somber mood in the Neyland-Thompson/Anderson Training center both times I was on campus this week.
Lastly, Currie is starting his barnstorming tonight in Memphis. UT’s new athletics leader, along with Chancellor Beverly Davenport, will be in Memphis for two different events. One is with Memphis business leaders and chamber of commerce folks while the other is known as the “Big Orange Gala.”