Tennessee football wrapped up its 10th practice of the spring on Thursday as the Volunteers prepare to scrimmage on Saturday in Neyland Stadium.
Outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator Mike Ekeler discussed his outside linebackers and special teams units after practice, and said he is pleased with the work his special teams unit is putting in — especially, the placekickers.
The Vols return senior punter and kickoff specialist Paxton Brooks, who averaged 43.6 yards per punt last fall.
“From our placekickers, we have a really good battle going right now,” Ekeler said. “Then you have Paxton [Brooks], from a punting perspective, the other day he was just banging them out there. I think on six punts, he was averaging about 55 yards, and he’s putting them right exactly where we want them. I’m pleased with it every day those guys are coming to work and working on their craft.”
Brooks is listed as one of the top punters and kickoff specialists in the SEC and has played in 35 career games, averaging 42.9 yards per punt and 61.2 yards per kickoff in his career — 96 of his 156 kickoffs have gone for touchbacks (61.5%).
Ekeler said sophomore linebacker Byron Easton — who saw action in six games as a true freshman, mainly on special teams — has more power this spring and spoke highly of the junior college enrollees, such as Byron Young.
Young, a junior outside linebacker, came to Tennessee with junior college experience.
“[Byron Young] has really made a ton of improvement,” Ekeler said. “He’s got some speed off the edge that you’re looking for. Bryson Eason has more power, and he’s done a great job. Those guys pack their lunch pail every single day. They have got an unbelievable attitude and the bottom line is they love ball. Every single day, they raise their game.”
This Saturday’s scrimmage is closed to the public, but the Orange & White Game on April 24 at 4 p.m. ET with first-year head coach Josh Heupel at the helm will allow fans — admission at Neyland Stadium for the spring game will be free.