Redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Peterman is taking a more commanding role at the line of scrimmage, an encouraging sign for Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian, who has emphasized “leadership” as one of the traits that will decide the quarterbacks race.
“I saw Nate really step up,” Bajakian said after practice Thursday.
Peterman is competing with junior Justin Worley for UT’s starting quarterback position, and Bajakian said he was pleased with both players’ progress.
“Through practices one through five, we threw too many interceptions, but we’re getting better,” he said. “We emphasize completing the football, taking what the defense gives you and managing the football game. We emphasize getting rid of the football, being on time, being on rhythm and not taking sacks. A couple times today I thought we held onto the ball for a little bit too long, but overall I like the progress they’re making.”
What names did UT assistant coaches drop during their weekly meeting with reporters on Thursday? Here’s the honor roll:
Offensive line coach Don Mahoney praised reserve Mack Crowder for making an impact on the second team.
Defensive coordinator John Jancek said defensive back Justin Coleman had displayed strong “tackling fundamentals.”
Redshirt freshman safety LaDarrell McNeil has been one of the most consistent defensive backs through six practices, according to secondary coach Willie Martinez.
Both Jancek and linebackers coach Willie Martinez credited senior Brent Brewer’s leadership even while learning a new position.
At receiver, Zach Azzanni said he saw good things from sophomore Cody Blanc in last Saturday’s scrimmage.
Running backs coach Robert Gillespie did not meet with reporters Thursday. He is nursing a wound near his eye that required him to wear sunglasses during practice.
Senior Michael Palardy and junior Matt Darr shared punting duties in 2012, and special teams coordinator Mark Elder said a decision on this year’s punter is still far away.
“They know the position’s up for grabs,” Elder said. “As the spring goes on, we’ll be putting those guys in similar situations to punt under pressure.”
Palardy is also likely the leading candidate to be Tennessee’s regular kicker, although he is being challenged by Derrick Brodus, George Bullock and walk-on Ryan Ault.
Defensive back Daniel Gray returned to practice after missing one day. Running back Tom Smith, defensive tackle Maurice Couch and tight end Justin Meredith were in restricted jerseys.
Senior defensive back Eric Gordon continues to be a frequent presence around the football complex despite not practicing. Coach Butch Jones said Gordon is away from the team while dealing with personal issues. His return is uncertain.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.