Young players got plenty of personal time with coaches in the second session of Tennessee’s first day of practice Friday, which was reserved for newcomers and a few squad players who filled out the rosters.
But it was clear at times that the evening unit was hardly the first unit. There was clear confusion on a few of the snaps. If coach Derek Dooley thought the first session was crisp and clean, the evening one still had room to grow.
In fact, he predicted as much before the session started.
“I’m not going to expect a lot, just based on experience,” he said.
Tennessee debated whether to stay indoors, but ultimately was able to practice under muggy and overcast skies in its first practice session. By the evening practice, the skies had darkened and the Vols stayed in the indoor complex.
N o player’s health is more important to the Vols’ season than quarterback Tyler Bray, who’s suffered injuries in each of the last two years.
But Dooley said Bray’s toughness wasn’t in question.
“The concern is because he didn’t go through a full season, not because of any durability issue,” Dooley said. “He’s proven to me he’s a durable guy.”
Tight end Mychal Rivera joked about the crowded corps of talented receivers Thursday, but the question was real: Will there be enough catches to go around and still leave some for the tight end?
Bray said he doesn’t expect that to be a problem.
“I am still going to give him the ball,” Bray said. “I have to show the tight ends some love. He blocks for me and keeps me safe, so I have to throw him some love.”
Junior defensive lineman Daniel Hood missed all of spring practice after under- going shoulder surgery, so the Vols’ new coaches are seeing him for the first time this week.
Dooley thinks they’ll be impressed.
“I told Sal (Sunseri) and (defensive line coach John Palermo) they don’t know much about Dan. I think Dan is going to surprise them,” Dooley said. “He’s big and he’s tough, he’s strong and he gives good effort. I’m anxious to see how he does over the course of camp.”
Junior running back Rajion Neal is up to 212 pounds after going through spring at 205 to 208.
Neal said running backs coach Jay Graham has challenged him to make an impact this fall.
“He’s stayed in my ear and stayed on me as far as paying attention to little details,” Neal said.
The Vols practice again today and Sunday at 2:15 and 7:45 p.m. The first single-session day is Monday at 2:45.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat