KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee football kicked off its preseason camp on Monday morning. The University of Tennessee's first game of the 2022 season is Thursday, Sept. 1 against Ball State inside Neyland Stadium.
Tennessee players reported for fall camp on Sunday, July 31. The Vols' first practice was Monday.
Heupel said he was pleased with how the first practice went. He remarked on the improvement in athleticism this year, accountability among players and also how players are now teaching other players with a familiarity with the system.
"We've dramatically changed the bodies since we got here, even as we finished last season," he said. "Last night before our team meeting, before we got on the grass today, we got the opportunity to showcase the dramatic improvements that our guys have made, which was a lot of fun. Efficiency, the ability to take coaching, the ability for players to coach each other, some of the intangible things we spent so much time on — they showed up and they showed up today in a big way. The small things add up to the big things everybody sees."
UT begins the season without redshirt sophomore running back Len'Neth Whitehead. Heupel told the media on Sunday that Whitehead is out for the entire season due to an upper-body injury.
RELATED: Tennessee redshirt sophomore running back Len'Neth Whitehead will miss 2022 season with injury
There's no question that redshirt senior Hendon Hooker will start at quarterback for the Vols. However, there is a question about how deep Tennessee's wide receiver room will be this year.
The Vols return two of their top four wide receivers from 2021. Cedric Tillman and Jalin Hyatt are back for the Vols. UT lost Velus Jones Jr. and JaVonta Payton – who combined for roughly 100 yards per game.
Tillman led the wideouts in 2021, totaling over 1,000 yards. He became the first Vol receiver to record 1,000 receiving yards in a season since Justin Hunter in 2012.
In Monday's practice during 11-on-11 drills, Jalin Hyatt started in the slot with the first team while Tillman and Ramel Keyton were on the outside.
Hyatt had 21 receptions for 226 yards last season.
"In the middle part of last year, his focus and attention to detail, need to change." Head coach Josh Heupel said about Hyatt. "He's dramatically different from the time we got back in January. He's added a ton of size and strength and maturity to his frame."
On the defensive side of things, EDGE rusher Byron Young looks to have a standout season. He was in a preseason first-team All-SEC selection. He was a vocal leader in the first practice, rallying the team in a huddle after stretching before some drills.
The Vols also return linebacker Jeremy Banks and cornerback Trevon Flowers. They were both named to the All-SEC third team.
During practice, defensive line coach Rodney Garner and defensive coordinator Tim Banks were working on technique with players on assignments and form.