KNOXVILLE — With dozens of high school football coaches in attendance for Tennessee's annual spring coaching clinic, the Volunteers prepped for Saturday's third spring scrimmage at Haslam Field on Thursday afternoon.
Tennessee is wrapping up its penultimate week of spring football, and here are some notes and observations from Thursday's work.
• Freshman cornerback Emmanuel Moseley probably had the play of the day during the open period of practice. As head coach Butch Jones likes to do, the Vols broke from their stretching period into the circle drill then into some receiver-defensive one-on-ones from the 5-yard line.
Matched up with budding star sophomore Marquez North, Moseley, the wiry speedster from North Carolina, got a hand on the ball and knocked it away as it appeared North was going to haul in a fade pass thrown well into the back corner of the end zone by quarterback Josh Dobbs.
Moseley got up to make an emphatic incomplete pass signal before the rest of his position group greeted him with congratulations, and even receivers coach Zach Azzanni woofed, "Nice job, Moseley!" The January enrollee continues to get first-team work opposite Cam Sutton.
• In other one-on-one matchups, receiver Jason Croom beat safety LaDarrell McNeil without much trouble with Justin Worley the quarterback. An overthrown fade pass by Riley Ferguson kept the Cam Sutton-Josh Malone matchup from materializing, and cornerback Malik Foreman was flagged for pass interference against Von Pearson.
• This seems like a good time to share this quote from Sutton, who was an All-SEC freshman team selection last year, from after Tuesday's practice: "If you can go against those receivers in practice, you pretty much can go against anybody in the SEC."
• Dimarya Mixon and Dontavius Blair were the targets of Jones during the circle drill and one-on-one pass protection drills. Jones made Mixon, a true freshman who sat out last season after failing to qualify at Nebraska for the 2013 class, go against Ray Raulerson, Kyler Kerbyson and Marcus Jackson back-to-back-to-back reps in the circle.
Jones called for Blair, who's currently behind walk-on Jacob Gilliam at left tackle, to face off against Corey Vereen in pass pro work. Vereen easily won the first matchup before Blair earned the advantage in a rematch.
• Marlin Lane was absent from practice, at least during the open viewing period. Jones said after practice that Lane was taking a test. "He had a test and a meeting with a professor," said the coach, "and academics always come first in our program."
• Freshman linebacker Jakob Johnson appeared to get some work as a defensive end during one period of practice.
• The Vols did some three-on-three work -- two blockers and a runner against three defensive players -- for a little while. Jones called for freshman Neiko Creamer to go through the ringer on a couple of reps, and after one rep the coaches blew their whistles for a solid 30 seconds as a mob of players had to be separated. It appeared to be a very, very minor little scuffle.
• After the first rep of that period was an easy win for the offense, Jones barked, "Give me another soft group of white guys!" By white, of course, he means the white-clad defensive players. The defense will have a chance to earn back the orange jerseys on Saturday.
• Cornerback Justin Coleman practiced in a green non-contact jersey for the second time this week.
• The Vols typically devote one period of each practice to one of legendary Tennessee coach Gen. Robert Neyland's famous game maxims. Usually it's a ball security period where the offense works on taking care of the ball while the defense practices what the coaches call "ball disruptions."
For today's practice, the defensive coaches buried a ball at the bottom of a pile of blocking pads and had two players, lying on their back until the whistle blew, run from about 10 yards out and jump into the pile trying to be the first to the ball.
• Rising sophomore defensive end Jaylen Miller continues to be sidelined by a leg injury.
• The keynote speaker for this weekend's three-day coaching clinic, by the way, is new Tennessee Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt.
More practice coverage online and in Friday's Times Free Press.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...