April 18, 2009
By BETH RUCKER, Associated Press Writer
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee's offense protected the ball and put together long drives in its most solid performance of the spring.
The Volunteers' ball control problems of a year ago seemed a thing of the past as the offense beat the defense 41-23 in Saturday's scrimmage after being outplayed for much of the spring.
"There were some lengthy drives. That's good to see. That's what happens when you don't turn the ball over," coach Lane Kiffin said.
Tennessee's offense had suffered many interceptions and fumbles through the team's 14 spring practices.
Both units played a watered-down version of their schemes designed to help the offense be successful, but defensive end Chris Walker promises the defense was doing all it could to get the ball.
"I think the coaches really stressed it and the guys really bought into it -- not to say we didn't try to get it out, but those boys were really holding onto it," he said.
Warren also caught a 5-yard scoring strike from Nick Stephens and had 50 yards on four receptions. Hancock led the team with 96 yards receiving on eight catches.
Crompton finished 14-for-27 for 143 yards and threw a touchdown pass to Austin Rogers.
Playing a more vanilla version of the offense -- Kiffin said about 20 percent of the offense was shown -- helped the guys have a little more fun on the field in front of the crowd of 51,488, the second largest spring game crowd in history.
"We just wanted to execute," he said. "We made some throws, we made some catches and we made some great runs. It was real fun. We got in a rhythm, and we just flowed with it."
The team went through a typical game-day routine of meetings and the traditional "Vol Walk" with fans from the team's practice facility to Neyland Stadium.
It was the first Vol Walk for the new coaching staff. Kiffin walked calmly past fans while offensive line coach Ed Orgeron pumped his arms in the air and slapped fans hands and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin was greeted by chants of "Monte, Monte!"
Former coach Phillip Fulmer was honored on field before the game for receiving the Gen. Robert Neyland Trophy from the Knoxville Quarterback Club, drawing cheers from the fans.
"I'm as big a Tennessee fan as anybody can possibly be. This is home," Fulmer said before the game to reporters.