Dontavis Sapp on Butch Jones and the Vols' new coaching staff
The football training camp gods can be whimsical and cruel, as freshman receiver Josh Smith is learning firsthand.
The Knoxville native and CAK product pushed his way onto the first team on Monday. By Tuesday night, he was isolated in “the Hole,” the fenced area designated for injured players.
Although coaches didn’t say what Smith’s injury was, it didn’t appear to be serious. He’s undoubtedly eager to be back on the field, and Tennessee receivers coach Zach Azzanni is eager to see more of him.
“Here’s the thing,” Azzanni said after Tuesday night’s practice. “I saw our receivers in the spring. I know what they can do. I’ve got 25 days to see if anybody else can help us out.”
That’s why Smith and fellow true freshman receiver Marquez North were thrown into first-team action on Monday. Azzanni said they both earned it.
“I feel a lot better now than I did (in the spring) because our depth and competition level has improved,” Azzanni said.
Azzanni said he has no problem giving snaps to true freshmen if they’re the best players on the team.
“I’m comfortable giving the best players playing time — even if they have black stripes on their helmet,” he said, referring to the strips of tape that adorn every freshman’s white helmet.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian said it goes back to the “clean slate” promised every player.
“We hear what you say, but we trust what you do,” Bajakian said.
He said North and Smith have stood out for going above and beyond. “They’ve done more than the coaches have asked,” Bajakian said.
Mixed evaluation:Coaches had a mixed evaluation for Tuesday’s practice, the first in full pads.
“I wouldn’t call it sloppiness,” Bajakian said. “We just didn’t handle adversity well.”
Extra attention for Quinn:Tight end Woody Quinn, a junior college transfer who is expected to play an important role in this year’s offense, has taken plenty of grief from Butch Jones in practice since the first week in camp.
It might not be fun, but extra attention from the head coach is often a telling sign of one’s importance to the team.
“He’s trying to get the best out of people,” said tight ends coach Mark Elder.
As for Quinn, Elder said, “He’s new. He’s done some good things and some bad things.”
Worley with the ones:In the portions of practice open to the media, junior Justin Worley has worked exclusively with the ones. The consensus also seems to be that, if there’s a quarterback battle, he’s winning it.
But Bajakian said redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman receives some reps with the first group in practice, and the two true freshmen — Riley Ferguson and Josh Dobbs — will get better quickly.
“The game’s moving fast for them,” Bajakian said. “But as they get more reps, the game will slow down.”
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennnesseeBeat.