Tennessee offensive coordinator Alex Golesh was asked Saturday afternoon to single out those who have performed well through two spring football practices for the Volunteers, and he was happy to oblige.
"Jabari Small has been really impressive," Golesh said. "We were all excited to see what he can do. As far as guys who have stood out, I would say that Jabari has been one for sure, and probably that O-line group as a whole.
"They are knowing how the operation works and are getting on the right people and are playing fast."
Small is Tennessee's top returning rusher from last year, having amassed 26 carries for 117 yards as a freshman. His best showing was 48 yards on six carries in the 42-17 thumping of a depleted Vanderbilt, but he did play in all 10 games.
Golesh described Dee Beckwith as a "fascinating body type" and added that junior-college transfer Tiyon Evans has been solid. Velus Jones and Jimmy Calloway are the receivers Golesh mentioned, and he complimented quarterbacks Harrison Bailey, Hendon Hooker and Brian Maurer for showing improvement from an operational standpoint between the first and second practices.
Yet the most notable praise was for an offensive line that no longer has Brandon Kennedy and Trey Smith due to NFL aspirations and Jahmir Johnson and Wanya Morris due to the NCAA transfer portal.
"It's so different from what they've done and what they were used to," Golesh said. "To be honest, that was my biggest concern coming into this. Last year (as a UCF assistant) in Orlando, they were going into their third year in the system, but I've been really proud in how they've handled it. You do have a handful of guys who have played some football, so it's just been a matter of adjusting their thinking and how they're doing it.
"Cade (Mays) has done a really good job and is fun to watch. Darnell Wright has been really impressive, as has (Javontez) Spraggins for a young guy. He really plays his tail off. (Cooper) Mays at center has done a really good job, and I've been impressed with the young guys. We're big and strong. We haven't had the pads on yet, but I can't say enough about those guys."