What we learned during Tennessee’s spring practice

NCAA Football: Tennessee-Spring Game

SDS will be taking a tour around the conference and looking at each team’s progress – or lack thereof – made during spring camp. Next up, Tennessee.

Here’s what we learned during Tennessee’s spring practice:

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Offense

Little separation: Butch Jones said he’s in no hurry to name a starter for this season. Riley Ferguson and Justin Worley were creating separation from Josh Dobbs and Nathan Peterman, until Dobbs went off in the spring game. How settled was the job heading into the Orange and White Game? We’ll never know, but Dobbs did his best to make the coaching staff rethink the position after throwing for 199 yards and three touchdowns. I still think Worley will get the opening day nod, but Dobbs or Ferguson could wind up being the starter at some point in the season.

Ship is getting righted: One huge vacancy over the last few years has been the lack of athletes. That’s changing, and Butch Jones is making sure of it. Now, Tennessee is recruiting and building some quality athletes within the program. I’m not saying Tennessee is ready to win 10 games this year, but what I am saying is that the Vols are on pace to win the SEC East in the next couple years. It probably won’t happen this year, as the line of scrimmage is a massive question mark, but calmer seas are ahead, despite rough waters anticipated in 2014. Patience is the key here, and as long as the fan base gives Jones time to build, it’s going to be rebuilt.

Freshman duo: By now, Tennessee fans know all about running back Jalen Hurd and wide receiver Josh Malone. Malone’s progress this spring has been somewhat slow, but Saturday everything clicked. Malone caught six passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns. Don’t get blinded by those numbers, but it does speak to his spring development. Malone should be an impact player in no time. Hurd, on the other hand, has been turning heads since the beginning of spring practice. Though he needs to work on his pad level against defenders, Hurd has all the talent to become an All-SEC running back and one who will absolutely make an impact this season. Because both players gained valuable experience and now know the playbook, it will pay dividends come August, when other freshmen are struggling with the playbook and Hurd and Malone are like seasoned veterans.

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O-line a work in progress: We knew the offensive line would be a work in progress. One player who has been making a big push is freshman Coleman Thompas from Max Meadows, Virginia. Although the line is far from decided, there is much work to be done here. It was consistently the weakest unit during spring practice, and in a line-of-scrimmage league, that could spell trouble in the short run.

Defense

New life: It’s easy to see just how much Tennessee missed Curt Maggitt last year. Watching him bounce around making plays during spring practice could help take the defense to another level, leadership-wise. Maggitt’s played both linebacker and defensive end this spring, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see him wind up as a full-time defensive end. He’s baaack, and Maggitt is one to watch in 2014.

Let’s break down the biggest takeaways of every spring practice:

Photo Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

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