The Volunteers were back on the practice field Thursday, marking the official return of Tennessee football for the 2019 season.

The early impressions of Jeremy Pruitt’s second team on Rocky Top is that the Vols look bigger, faster and more physically prepared for the grind that is SEC football but while the team is more prepared for the rigors that are to come, they won’t be at 100 percent entering the spring.

Following the first practice of the spring, Pruitt noted that five players are out this spring, with the possibility that some of them return by the end of camp. Those players are linebacker Darrin Kirkland (rehabbing his knee), running back Eric Gray (shoulder surgery), defensive back Tyus Fields (offseason surgery), offensive lineman Chris Akporoghene (offseason surgery), and defensive lineman Kurott Garland (no listed reason for absence).

Gray, Fields and Akporoghene are all true freshmen early enrollees that arrived during the mid-year period.

The two players Pruitt seemed the most optimistic regarding a potential return this spring was Akporoghene and Garland.