April 1, 2010
Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley maintained an even temperament about his team's first spring scrimmage, a two-hour affair Thursday at Neyland Stadium.
"It was pretty typical of a first scrimmage," Dooley said. "The defense was very dominant early in the scrimmage; offense really struggling to get a first down.
"Then after halftime, the defense is feeling pretty good and they give up a big play to start the second half. It happens all the time. (Tauren) Poole makes a great run, it energizes the offense and they come right back and put another drive together that leads to a touchdown pass."
Poole's big play was a 67-yard touchdown scamper that looked like it was going nowhere around left end. The junior tailback then cut back through the defense to the middle of the field into open territory, finishing the run with another cut left and waltzing the final 10 yards into the end zone.
Poole carried nine times for 94 yards, and Dooley says the Toccoa, Ga., product appears to be taking advantage of his opportunity.
"He's been a real steady hand at the No. 1 spot. He's got a lot of work to do to be a good runner, a durable runner and an effective runner, but right now he's been our most productive runner."
Tennessee's trio of quarterbacks were not as productive behind their, as Dooley called it, "100 percent new" offensive line. Simms, Nick Stephens -- who got Thursday's start -- and Tyler Bray combined to go 17-of-42 passing for 158 yards and two touchdowns against two interceptions.
"You always hope they will play better than they do," Dooley said. "Some of them have a little more anxiety because it's the first scrimmage and they want to do well. It's important to learn to just relax, play and let the game come to you."
Defensively, converted fullback Austin Johnson led with eight tackles from his new linebacker spot, adding an interception of Bray in the team's two-minute drill. Herman Lathers made seven stops, while Shane Reveiz, Jacques Smith and Willie Bohannon all added six tackles apiece. Senior end Chris Walker contributed two of the defense's numerous sacks among his four stops and Janzen Jackson turned in a sparking interception of a Simms ball.
"We're not playing vanilla defense," Dooley said. "We're bringing pressure when you should bring pressure in a game. I wouldn't say we're throwing the kitchen sink at the offense but we're also not making it easy on them.
"You've got to keep pushing the envelope because that's what the other teams are going to do. The only way you learn how to handle it is to go out there and keep doing it. It can get frustrating. But if you keep working on vanilla, when it's time to get to the hard stuff you're not going to be ready. We keep pushing the envelope probably faster than we should all the time and we do that on purpose."
Dooley said the numerous new players, especially on offense, means it won't be a quick fix putting everything together. The Vols are at the halfway point of their spring schedule, with just seven workouts remaining until the April 17 Dish Network Orange and White Game.
"I think what is evident out there is we have a lot of new faces. Developing that chemistry with both units is going to take a lot of time. We saw a little bit more (chemistry) on the defensive side because there are more familiar faces. They've been out there together and encouraged each other.
"On offense -- a lot of new faces. That's going to be a work in progress."
The Vols have the Easter weekend off and return to practice Tuesday for the first of three consecutive days on Haslam Field.
Receiving Leaders: Marsalis Teague 2 for 29 yards; Gerald Jones 2 for 16 yards; Matt Milton 2 for 11 yards; Zach Rogers 1 for 22 yards, TD; Kevin Cooper 1 for 18 yards; Ted Meline 1 for 14 yards, TD; Ben Lehning 1 for 12 yards; Todd Campbell 1 for 10 yards.
Tackles Leaders: Austin Johnson 8 tackles, 2 TFL (-6) + sack (-4), int.; Herman Lathers 7 tackles, TFL (-1) + sack (-5), QB hurry; Shane Reveiz 6 tackles; Jacques Smith 6 tackles; Willie Bohannon 6 tackles, 2 TFL (-5), QB hurry; Montori Hughes 5 tackles, TFL (-1), 2 PBU; Chris Walker 4 tackles, 2 sacks (-13), QB hurry; Janzen Jackson 2 tackles, int.
Offensive Starters: Tackles Dallas Thomas and Ja'Wuan James, guards JerQuari Schofield and Jarrod Shaw, center Victor Thomas, tight end Luke Stocker, wide receivers Denarius Moore and Gerald Jones; fullback Kevin Cooper, tailback Tauren Poole, quarterback Nick Stephens
Defensive Starters: Ends Chris Walker and Gerald Williams, tackles Montori Hughes and Marlon Walls; linebackers LaMarcus Thompson, Herman Lathers and Austin Johnson; cornerbacks Eric Gordon and Naz Oliver, safeties Janzen Jackson and Darren Myles Jr.