Aug. 15, 2009
Tennessee's defense continued its surge over the last half of this week by claiming the upper hand over the offense during Saturday's scrimmage work at Neyland Stadium.
"Today was pretty much the opposite of (scrimmage) game one, which is good for us," Kiffin said. "That defense really got after the offense and played really physical, played extremely well mentally.
"That's the defense we saw in the spring. That's the first unit that -- intensity-wise, the way they tackled, how physical they played -- that's exactly how we expect them to play year-round."
UT started Chris Walker and Gerald Williams at defensive end, Dan Williams and Victor Thomas at the tackles, LaMarcus Thompson, Nick Reveiz and Savion Frazier at linebacker, with Eric Berry, Dennis Rogan, Anthony Anderson and Marsalous Johnson in the secondary.
On offense, it was Chris Scott and Jarrod Shaw at tackle, Jacques McClendon and Vladimir Richard at guard, Josh McNeil at center, Quintin Hancock and Brandon Warren at the wideouts, Jeff Cottam at tight end, Kevin Cooper at fullback, Montario Hardesty at tailback and Jonathan Crompton at quarterback.
Among those catching the coach's eye was Williams at defensive end. The junior from Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., seems to be making a habit of batting down passes and harassing the quarterback, and Saturday was no exception.
"He's everywhere again," Kiffin said. "I think that's probably six straight practices where he's made two or three significant plays each practice.
"I love the story of Gerald. Here's a guy who's buried on the depth chart early on and probably not a lot of people had hope for him. But we just kept pushing him and he had a great off-season. The No. 1 theme in the program is competing, and he did that. He didn't give up, worked hard and he's starting for us right now."
Tennessee held a number of defensive regulars out because of injuries, but Kiffin said that only makes the offense's showing more head-scratching.
"If you have seven players out, you would think your offense would move the ball a lot better than it did today. We have extremely high standards for our offense and I don't think anybody (today) feels very good about it, but on the other side we feel great about the defense.
"Obviously, we've got to do a much better job as a staff on offense and we have to keep the consistency up on defense."
Asked his thoughts on what made the difference for the defense on Saturday and Kiffin kept it simple.
"They did stuff better. They executed better, they didn't get cut as much and they played the run a lot better. When we line up and do things right on defense, we're really good. And we showed that today even with seven players out."
Tennessee's scoring plays for the day included a touchdown pass by Crompton to freshman Marsalis Teague and two touchdown strikes from Nick Stephens. Cottam caught the first and reserve Sam Edgmon the second. Defensive back Rod Wilks intercepted a pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown, while Vols junior kicker Daniel Lincoln made all three of his field goal attempts (long of 49). Chad Cunningham added a 47-yard field goal.
UT practices again Monday and Tuesday afternoon before taking Wednesday off for the first day of classes.