|Day 1 impressions|
One Tennessee football player caught my eye even before Tuesday's first preseason workout officially started.
Warming up while waiting for the position players to show at Haslam Field, a guy wearing jersey No. 22 hit five consecutive booming punts ... tight spirals, good hang time, consistent 45-yard distance. Checking the roster, I discovered the guy is named David Harrington, and he's a 6-3, 185-pound junior college transfer from Orange Coast (Calif.) College.
A little Internet research, however, revealed that Harrington split time as Orange Coast's punter last fall, averaging a so-so 37.2 yards on 16 kicks with a long of 53 yards. The team's other punter, Jake Fields, averaged 37.4 yards on 22 punts. Apparently, Harrington struggles with consistency because those five consecutive punts during warmups were awfully impressive.
Junior Chad Cunningham is the heir-apparent to Britton Colquitt as the Vols' No. 1 punter after averaging 39.5 yards in five starts last fall while Colquitt was suspended.
WHO'LL RETURN PUNTS?
Junior safety Dennis Rogan averaged 12.7 yards per punt return as a freshman in 2007 but dropped off to just 5.2 yards as a sophomore last fall. Not surprisingly, Tennessee gave a bunch of guys a chance to return punts in practice Tuesday.
In addition to Rogan, the guys fielding punts were junior receiver Gerald Jones, freshman wideout Nu'Keese Richardson, freshman receiver Marsalis Teague, freshman tailback David Oku, freshman defensive back Mike Edwards and freshman defensive back Eric Gordon.
BERRY SHOWS PASSION FOR PRACTICE
They say you play like you practice, and All-America safety Eric Berry is proof. He practices with more enthusiasm than any player I've seen in nearly 30 years covering the Vols.
Covering tight end Ben Bartholomew on a drag route over the middle, Berry tipped the pass, then Bartholomew tipped the pass. Berry tipped it twice more and Bartholomew tipped it twice more before the ball finally dropped to the ground. Berry and Bartholomew shared a laugh, then hugged like a couple of brothers reunited after a five-year absence.
Several times in Tuesday's workout Berry raced 30 yards or more downfield to overtake receivers and strip the ball from them when they relaxed their grip on the ball, thinking they were in the clear.
- Walk-on quarterback Mike Rozier threaded the needle on a short pass to freshman wideout Marsalis Teague, despite tight coverage by freshman defensive back Mike Edwards.
- Ballyhooed freshman tailback Bryce Brown, running wide to his left, stopped abruptly, made a sharp cut to the inside and accelerated way faster than you'd expect of a 6-1, 215-pounder. Fellow freshman David Oku showed great cutting ability and burst, as well.
- Senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton made some good throws and some bad ones. His best one came on a rollout to the right, when he threw on the run and hit Gerald Jones with a 20-yard strike on a deep out route.
- Wideout Brandon Warren was stripped after catching a quick slant pass. Coordinator Jim Chaney stopped the workout at this point and made the entire first-team offense run a lap around the practice field.
- Moments after his fumble, Warren atoned with a nice leaping catch of a 20-yard fade pass from No. 2 quarterback Nick Stephens.
- Gathering clouds forced the Vols to switch from Haslam Field to the indoor practice facility at 5:30. A raging thunderstorm struck moments later.
- Middle linebacker Nick Reveiz, listed 5-10 and 220 pounds, made a couple of spectacular pass deflections during the final minutes of the workout. The middle linebacker has a lot more coverage responsibilities in the Tampa-2 scheme being installed by new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.