Pearson returns, Smith shines, more

Von Pearson's return highlighted Day 5 of Tennessee's fall camp, but Butch Jones also spoke of Josh Smith's improvement, the youth at defensive tackle and more Saturday after practice.

The fifth day of Tennessee’s fall camp began with an extra player on the field.

Wide receiver Von Pearson, who was reinstated by the team Friday, fully participated in practice, albeit without pads. The senior wide out didn’t waste any team easing back into his role, hauling in an impressive one-handed snag on the sideline to open individual drills.

Butch Jones commended Pearson for his retention of the offense after missing the first four days of fall camp and was pleased with his receiver’s first day back on the field.

“I thought Von did some good things. To his credit, he’s in very good shape,” Jones said. “You can tell just with the football endurance that he’s worked at it, so we were able to get him some routes on air and get him some mental repetitions and then, after practice, get him a little bit more.”

Pearson’s return bolsters the talent level of a strong unit and adds needed depth to a position stung by injuries for the majority of last season. The Feather River College transfer worked on planting his feet and cutting with the rest of the wide outs and his performance out of the gate was encouraging to the coaching staff.

“I thought Von’s recall and retention from the spring was very good,” Jones said. “We’ll know a little bit more when he’s able to put the pads on and finish the acclimation period, but from what I could see of the work that he got in today, I was very pleased with his endurance.”

Not so fast my friend

The middle linebacker competition has been discussed ad nauseam in recent weeks, and at least one person believes people should pump the breaks on placing too much significance on one position.

“Everyone blows out the candidates at middle linebacker,” Butch Jones said after Saturday’s practice. “Today’s world of college football has changed. You play with two linebackers and you play with a nickel.”

Jones noted the competition has been a solid one since the MIKE spot came open but that other positions like nickel are just as important to his defense’s scheme.

“I think the kids have done a really good job as a position group. There’s a lot of individuals that are vying for playing time and we want to play a lot of players,” Jones said.

“We have some youngsters that are learning day by day but their reps are minimal because you play with two linebackers really. Nickel has become one of the most prominent positions in all of defensive football, but I’ve been pleased with the linebacker group as a whole.”

Smitten with Smith

Von Pearson wasn’t the only one with an eye-popping catch Saturday. Fellow wide out Josh Smith also made a one-handed snag while turning his body during individual drills.

Smith, whose season was ended with an ankle injury in 2014, has been a welcomed addition back to the receiving corps this year as he fully rehabilitates to prepare for the upcoming year.

"We've been pleased with Josh. Josh has done a very good job of working himself on the extra stretching and you can tell a difference,” Jones said. “He has a lot of confidence right now, and the retention of the offense, the recall, all that. As of today, I think Josh is having a very, very good training camp."

The kids are all right

The depth at defensive tackle Tennessee added in the 2015 class was much needed. Freshmen Shy Tuttle and Kahlil McKenzie have been paramount to fortifying the position, but Jones warned of placing too high of expectations on the young players who, like every other freshman regardless of star ranking, are learning as they go in a brand new football world.

“As we know, its’ a line of scrimmage league. We have some youngsters that are very talented but they’re learning to play at a high level of collegiate football,” Jones said.

“I’ve said it, but we have to be very, very cautious that we don’t place too many expectations on 17, 18-year-old kids being in a college football program for the first time playing in the Southeastern Conference.”

Butch Jones talks Day 5 of fall camp

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