Today marked the first combined practice of the year and the first time the newcomers to the team were able to measure themselves against the veterans. Dooley said that they looked fine and that no one stood out really good or bad.
There are position battles everywhere you look especially on the defensive side of the ball where very little is set in stone and it's going to be exciting to watch unfold.
The plus side is that there is depth along the defensive line for the first time since Dooley's been the coach and now the problem is sorting them out, finding out who the starting 3 are then who is on the two deep and so on.
Dooley praised the work of Sentimore and Couch saying they showed "good conditioning." Daniel McCullers really wears his 380 lbs well. He looks big but not out-of-shape. He's really needed as a nose tackle on this team so I hope he can really step up, learn the defense quickly and adapt to the role. That's what you hope out of a Junior College player but it seldom works out that way.
Omari Phillips has some extra weight he needs to shed and with Greg King continuing to make plays I'm not real sure where he ends up in the pecking order.
Jacques Smith and Jordan Williams are duking it out for the starting Jack linebacker spot where Williams has continued to impress his coaches. Dooley has pointed to Jacques' play-making ability but pointed out that he has to get more consistent. That seems to have been the problem with Smith since he's been in Knoxville. He's shown flashes, but not on a consistent enough basis to be counted on.
On Williams, Dooley said he's going to be "a really good football player."
Freshman LaTroy Lewis has also been at the Jack linebacker position where he has been playing well and really looks the part as a freshman.
Justin Coleman is working hard trying to earn the starting corner back spot he held for most of last year. Throw in Eric Gordon and Marsalis Teague battling for that position as well. I like Gordon as a nickel back and that's where I expect we'll see him this year if he has continued to progress.
The other corner back spot appears to belong to Prentiss Waggner. I think he's done enough to prove he can lock that position down.
One safety spot will likely belong to Brian Randolph who became the first freshman to start in the secondary since Eric Berry last year on his way to All-SEC freshman honors.
The other spot is being contested by the returning Brent Brewer who missed part of last season after tearing an ACL, and Byron Moore. Both are good players and it's a luxury to have the two of them fighting for a position.
Brewer says he is faster and stronger than he was before the injury and backed part of that up by running the second-fastest 40 on the defense behind CB Tino Thomas.
Some other notes: Justin King was moved from linebacker to a H-back/TE role. King showed up looking good but definitely needs some time in the strength and conditioning program. I'm not sure he's going to be called on to play much this year although they have been working on a wildcat package featuring the former High School quarterback.
Drae Bowles is being slightly overshadowed by Junior College transfer Cordarrelle Patterson as far as the newcomers are concerned, but don't let that fool you. He has continued to impress all camp, catching nearly everything that comes his way. He will be a good football player for this team.
For the umpteenth time you've probably heard it, Cordarrelle Patterson is the real deal, folks. He has done nothing but impress since he's been here and was running in the 3 WR look with Justin and Da'Rick today. He looked great in pads and they are trying to find creative ways to get the football in his hands.
Jay Graham is my favorite coaching acquisition of the off-season. The guy is really working the running backs and they are running hard for him. I think our running game is going to be a lot better than people think and whoever it is toting the rock is going to get the job done.
Marlin Lane grew an inch in the off-season and shed a couple of pounds. I don't like hearing that our RBs are losing weight rather than gaining it but there it is.
Also quickly, Dooley said that Vincent Dallas' choice to move to DB was his and that they needed help there. He can probably see the field quicker there. They aren't sure yet whether he's a corner or a safety.
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