By Brian Rice KNOXVILLE, Tenn.
By Brian Rice
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- It doesn't get any brighter at Tennessee than under the lights of Neyland Stadium, a setting Team 118 experienced for the first time Saturday night.
For head coach Butch Jones, the bright lights illuminated the quarterback battle, with all three competitors for the job seeing equal reps with the offensive units as the evaluation continues.
"I think all of them are improving," Jones said of his quarterbacks. "I thought Nathan Peterman took some very important steps in moving forward today."
Peterman, who started once last season before a thumb injury cut his year short, said the time spent watching his team play with him out allowed him to take a step back and evaluate his entire game. The thing he found missing most in his performance is what he feels has helped him most in preparing for the 2014 season.
"My goal has been to go out there and make the game what it's supposed to be, to make it fun," Peterman said. "All our coaches do a great job of preparing us to go out there and play. When it's time to go out there, my goal has been to have fun and trust I know the way how to do it."
Senior Justin Worley, who started seven of the first eight games in 2013 before his season was also ended by a thumb injury, also took a step forward Saturday night.
"Justin is starting to play with much more confidence, more command of the line of scrimmage," Jones said. "We still need more, but I see that overall development start to happen."
Worley broke down his night.
"I missed a few throws that I'd like to have back, but overall I thought I managed the offense well in the situations," said Worley. "There's always room for improvement, I just need to go watch the film and correct some of the little things."
Joshua Dobbs, who finished out the season as the starter, said competing for the job that he ended the season with doesn't add pressure, it adds motivation.
"I really never feel pressure," Dobbs said. "My goal is to go out there and compete and do what I do best."
Dobbs came away from the scrimmage with the impression that the entire quarterback position showed what the coaching staff was looking for in directing the offense after the first week of camp.
"As a unit, we took steps forward in our tempo and in our execution," Dobbs said. "We did a good job executing what the coaches have thrown at us through the first week."
Worley agreed, adding that the early mistakes that have plagued the quarterbacks on simple throws were a matter of focus, something each player could easily correct.
"I thought we got better today," Worley said of the quarterback position. "We'd been missing some of the easy throw-and-catch balls that are normally completed. It required just a little bit more focus, a little bit more time with the receivers and we've got to correct it. The coaches have faith in us to make all the throws, we just have to go out here and execute it."
The biggest difference that separated Saturday's scrimmage from the team periods in practice was the location of the coaches. While they are typically behind the line and in the huddle in practice, Jones had them calling plays from the sideline, just as they will in three weeks when the Vols host Utah State on the same field. Jones even had the officiating crew enforce that sideline, as they will on Aug. 31.
Jones said the move in location was the next step in the quarterbacks' development.
"The great thing was, our coaches were off the field, so they had to think for themselves, they had to play football," Jones said. "We'll know more in the next couple of days who's game-ready and what individuals need to step up just overall knowledge of our schemes."
Peterman's evaluation of his performance through the first scrimmage was a microcosm for the development of the entire team. Getting better, but still plenty of work to be done.
"I feel like I'm always making strides, but I always feel like I've got to get better," Peterman said. "You're never `there,' you've never `arrived.'"