KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — After 48 hours away from the practice fields, players returned on Thursday to higher expectations from coach Butch Jones.
“Nice and fresh!” he yelled. “You oughtta be nice and fresh.”
We’ll find out later if Jones noticed any rejuvenation. For now, here are some post-practice notes:
* A handful of walk-ons joined the team Thursday, as rosters are now expanded with school in session. However, UT hasn’t yet released an updated roster, so I’m not sure who the new faces are.
* Stripe-watch: By unofficial count, the only freshmen who have yet to lose the black stripe atop their helmets are defensive lineman Malik Brown, offensive linemen Brett Kendrick and Thomas Edwards, tight end Greg Tisho and defensive back Devon Swafford. There may be others, but those were all we could spot today. Edwards, Tisho and Swofford are walk-ons.
* Injury watch: Receiver Alton “Pig” Howard and running back Marlin Lane were in green non-contact jerseys, but seemed to go through most of the drills.
Defensive end Jacques Smith, tight end Joseph Ayres, receiver Ryan Jenkins and linebacker Christian Harris worked out on the sidelines. Offensive lineman Dylan Wiesman appeared to return to full action.
* There was more ugly punting behind starter Michael Palardy. Neither Matt Darr, Trevor Daniel nor Ryan Ault seemed to have a great day, although Darr probably had the worst.
* Devrin Young, Vincent Dallas, Johnathon Johnson and Reggie Juin handled punt returns. If I had to guess, I’d say Young will handle duties against Austin Peay.
* Good line by Butch Jones to Jason Croom: “Croom, your biggest fans are here!” He was referring to the media on the sidelines. Guilty as charged.
* Here’s a possible offensive depth chart preview for next week, although obviously this is just one practice glimpse.
First team: QB Justin Worley; RB Rajion Neal, WRs Jason Croom, Alton “Pig” Howard, Jacob Carter and Josh Smith. No tight end in this particular look. The offensive was as you would expect.
Second team: QB Nathan Peterman; WRs Devrin Young, Cody Blanc, Marquez North; TE Brendan Downs; C Mack Crowder; LG Marcus Jackson; RG Dylan Wiesman; LT Jacob Gilliam; RT Kyler Kerbyson. I didn’t catch the running back, but imagine it was either Lane or Alden Hill.
UPDATE: I’ve had a couple of people tell me they saw North working with the ones, so it’s possible that I transposed North and Croom in my notes. This only deepens the mystery!
It’s worth noting, as we have throughout camp, that receivers have changed teams daily. But I do think it’s fair to expect all the receivers above to play in the opener.
* Butch Jones, who’s more involved in special teams than I’ve ever seen a head coach, flipped out on the punt team yet again. Both sides drew his wrath, including Devrin Young on the return team. Young called for a fair catch, then changed his mind at the last moment and let it drop. Jones said he either needs to call “poison” and get away or catch the ball. “Be decisive,” said special teams coordinator Mark Elder.
“You guys get rattled way too much,” Jones said.