There are notable differences from the start of Tennessee’s second preseason camp under Josh Heupel compared to last August. Athleticism, a deeper roster and experience at key positions are aplenty as the Volunteers opened the second fall under Heupel with a two-hour workout on Monday morning.
Tennessee began practice indoors and then moved to the outdoor fields of Haslam Field, culminating 18 periods in helmets and shorts.
“It was great to get out on the field today,” Heupel said. “It ended up being a beautiful day. The weather held out, so it was great for us to get outside. We’re really excited about being able to get out there.
“I think we’re deeper, with some of those transfers and the young guys inside of our program. With the people that we’ve brought into the program, I think we’ve added athleticism, speed and the ability to move and be in functional football positions. What our strength staff and nutrition staff has done, Coach (Kurt) Schmidt and his strength and conditioning staff, Ethan Bauer and his nutrition staff, we’ve dramatically changed the bodies from when we first got here, but even as we finished last season.”
Last fall saw Heupel coaching a preseason with a limited roster and scholarships, a lack of depth and unknowns at the quarterback position. Twenty six new scholarship players have joined the roster since the 2021 Music City Bowl, including the 12 June enrollees, who went through their first Tennessee practice on Monday.
Among those are redshirt freshmen safety Andre Turrentine and redshirt junior safety Wesley Walker, a Georgia Tech transfer who appeared in 23 career games. Walker gathered an interception in a team period on Monday.
“I think both are very coachable,” Heupel said. “They have a high care factor. They have a good football IQ and understanding. Wesley, with the amount of time that he has been in college football, is able to take a scheme that he’s ran before and transition it into the verbiage that we have. In that way, it’s been not a seamless, but a fluid transition for him. He made a big play out there today.”
Additional newcomers linebacker Kalib Perry, linebacker Elijah Herring, defensive back Jourdan Thomas and defensive lineman Joshua Josephs met with members of the media following Monday’s practice.
Tennessee hits the practice field again on Tuesday morning.