New faces are the theme for Tennessee football this spring, and the Vols will have a youth movement during the 2014 season.
All eyes have been on the Vols’ talented early enrollee class, which figures to add immediate firepower to the arsenal. Among the 14 early enrollees is the school’s most hyped signee in five-star in-state running back Jalen Hurd, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury last year in high school. The 6-3, 230-pound future star is already impressing the coaching staff a week into spring practice, according to Times Free Press.
“I thought Jalen Hurd really started to run like we expect him to run,” head coach Butch Jones said after Hurd excelled in Friday’s scrimmage. “He still needs to learn how to get the ball north and south. I see our younger players starting to gain confidence in their style of play and our team style of play.”
According to TNSportsRadio, Hurd was the standout player and the MVP on Friday before the Vols broke for spring break this week.
“He is working himself back into football shape and there is a difference,” Jones said. “He hasn’t played football in a year with recovering from the surgery so each day of practice I see him getting better and better. I see the improvement coming but I also see the confidence getting in him as well. He understands what he needs to work on.”
Projected starter Marlin Lane has been hampered with a wrist injury this spring, and Hurd has emerged to steal the spotlight thus far. Hurd has flashed terrific vision and the ability to make defenders miss in the open field, as well as toughness against would-be tacklers.
An instant-impact Jalen Hurd could do wonders for an offense that lost one of its best players in 1,100-yard rusher Rajion Neal.
Other practice notes:
- The offensive line continues to be the weakest aspect of the team to start spring. That’s not too surprising, though, knowing all five starters are gone from last year’s unit. The Vols are the only team in college football to replace every starter along the offensive line, and it’s obvious a week into spring practice.
- The coaching staff has tinkered with moving linebacker Curt Maggitt to defensive end to improve the pass rush.
- Jaylen Reeves-Maybin has also emerged this spring to secure that No. 3 linebacker slot alongside AJ Johnson and Maggitt, assuming he stays at linebacker.
- None of the four quarterbacks have gained any separation a week into practice. Justin Worley usually runs with the first team, and Riley Ferguson has flashed big-pass ability at times. However, the coaching staff probably doesn’t even know who they would start if the first game was next week. Worley has struggled with accuracy; Josh Dobbs has struggled with accuracy and decision making; Riley Ferguson has struggled with decision making; Nathan Peterman has struggled with accuracy and decision making. Who will stand out exiting spring practice?
- JUCO WR transfer Von Pearson has shown he’ll be a big playmaker, and early enrollee Josh Malone has also, although he has a ways to mature and learn the offense. Sophomore Jason Croom has been one of the most consistent performers for the Vols’ offense, and Marquez North is, well, Marquez North. Is Tennessee turning back into Wide Receiver U?
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