Senior defensive back Eric Gordon is away from the team while he deals with personal issues, Tennessee football coach Butch Jones saidTuesday.
Gordon, a fifth-year senior who has played in 33 games and started 15 in his career, did not attend Saturday’s scrimmage or practice on Tuesday.
“Eric’s on campus. He’s taking classes,” said Jones. “Eric’s taking care of some things off the field that occurred. So we’re working through that, and he has some things that he has to do to get back practicing.”
Gordon was the team’s top nickel back for much of last year. Jaron Toney, who worked with the first team Saturday, could be first in line to take his place.
Sophomore cornerback Daniel Gray missed Tuesday’s practice for what Jones said was an ashtma attack. Defensive lineman Maurice Couch, tight end Justin Meredith and defensive back Tino Thomas also were out or limited.
Jones was so thrilled with the way the defense attacked a play during practice that he made an impromptu decision.
“When you swarm to the ball, you get rewarded,” Jones yelled into his mic. “For the next three plays, the quarterback is LIVE.”
In practice parlance, that means the defense can hit the quarterback just like anyone else on the offense.
Was that bad news for redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman and perhaps offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian, who might have been scrambling to change his next three plays to safe runs?
“He’s used to it,” Jones said of Bajakian. “We’ve got to find out who our quarterback is. And I wanted to see how our offense would respond.”
Peterman ran two options that went straight to the running back, but on third-and-long, he was forced into a rollout. Peterman made a beeline to the sidelines and never left his feet, although he did come close to being crunched into the wall by a linebacker.
Later, in a portion of practice not open to reporters, defensive lineman Marlon Walls said junior quarterback Justin Worley also went live.
“I think the quarterbacks got a little shocked,” Walls said. “It energized practice a little bit. I knew that Worley was going to give it up so I could go ahead and chase the running back.”
After a Saturday scrimmage that he deemed subpar, Jones said the Vols had their most crisp performance of the spring on Tuesday.
“This was the best overall effort of the spring,” Jones said. “Our players have responded exceptionally well to the tempo. This is where you have to grind it and this is where your team is born.”
Slot receiver Devrin Young stood out in one-on-one drills, catching two nice passes, including a bomb in which he ran over freshman defensive back Lemond Johnson.
Linebackers took on offensive players in a series of pad-crunching one-on-one tackling drills.
The defense was leading the session during the portion of practice open to the media.
Jones said sophomore receiver Cody Blanc caught his eye in Saturday’s scrimmage. Blanc caught several passes from Worley and stood out in one-on-one drills.
“I think the biggest thing is he brings a level of consistency each and every day,” Jones said.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.