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Vols Balance Offense With Longer Drives


KNOXVILLE - In his five starts as a freshman, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray led an ‘explosive’ offense that saw an average time of possession of 2:10 on 27 scoring drives, including 14 that took less than two minutes. During their intrasquad scrimmage Saturday at Neyland Stadium, the Vols showed the potential for offensive efficiency as well.


“He was a lot better and we helped him a little bit too,” head coach Derek Dooley said of Bray. “We’re starting to get a little understanding of when we’re pushing too much because we don’t want to make him uncomfortable. He looked in command. He managed the offense well. This was different than what we’ve done in the past. It was an efficient offense, which is not what we’ve been. We’ve been more explosive. We like the efficiency. Nine plays, eight, seven, eight, which means we’re getting in third-and-makeable. We’re making them. But then we have to hit those shots when we have those opportunities and that’s what we were lacking today.”


The Vols will still attempt to use their versatile options to continue their success in scoring quickly. And that starts with UT’s sophomore quarterback.


“I wish Tyler would get a little more consistent in his approach,” Dooley said. “He shouldn’t have to have a real bad day to get him to want to come in and take it more seriously and that comes with maturity. We were a little off in the throwing game. I say a little off. We missed a lot of big plays. We’re going to try to have a big-play, explosive pass game. The sync was a little bit off. I didn’t think anybody was bad. It’s just a matter of that chemistry that’s going to come with a new receiving corp. I thought Tyler had a good demeanor today.”


Bray finished the day 12-of-26 for 132 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His TD toss wrapped up his second drive of the evening, a 4-yarder to sophomore wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers. The eight-play, 70-yard march was highlighted by a 16-yard reception from sophomore wideout Justin Hunter and a 15-yard rush by freshman tailback Tom Smith.


Hunter and Smith led the Vols in receiving and rushing, respectively. Hunter hauled in four passes for 69 yards, including Bray’s longest completion of the day, a 21-yarder. Smith carried the ball 10 times for 80 yards, including a UT scrimmage-best 22-yard scamper that set up the Vols’ only other touchdown of the night. Following Smith’s run, senior quarterback Matt Simms found sophomore wide receiver Matt Milton in the end zone from 18 yards out.


UT was a perfect 5-for-5 on field goals, with sophomore placekicker Michael Palardy responsible for four. Palardy displayed range, connecting on a 52-yarder. His 33-yard field goal wrapped up an impressive and lengthy drive that saw freshman tailback Marlin Lane break a 13-yard run and catch a 12-yard pass on third down. Bray also found Hunter for 18 yards on an earlier third down during that possession.


“We had a lot of improvement in some areas and we have a lot of work to do in others,” Dooley said. “Just picking up from last scrimmage, I felt like the tempo was much better by the offense. The administration was much better. We had a nice throw going. We had a lot of good drives. The problem was we only finished one of them off. We did a great job kicking field goals today.”



Tennessee’s defense forced four turnovers, including three interceptions. Senior defensive back Art Evans claimed UT’s first of the day, returning an INT 29 yards. Nigel Mitchell-Thornton and Naz Oliver were responsible for the Vols’ two other INTs.


On a reception that would’ve set the Vols’ offense up inside the red zone, sophomore linebacker John Propst stripped the ball and junior defensive back Rod Wilks recovered the fumble. Wilks had a strong day in the UT secondary, adding five tackles, one for loss and a pass breakup.


Freshman Curt Maggitt was disruptive and caused problems for the UT offense throughout the day. Four-and-a-half of his six tackles were in the backfield, leading to a loss of 17 yards. One of his team-high two sacks came on a “late game” situation drive.


The Vols applied pressure on the quarterbacks with four sacks and five QB hurries.


Sophomore defensive back Brent Brewer led Tennessee with seven tackles.



With Tennessee’s two-deep tailbacks Tauren Poole and Rajion Neal sidelined with minor injuries Saturday, Lane and Smith took advantage of their opportunities to shine. Applying different rushing styles, the duo provided a one-two punch that combined for 122 yards on 19 carries (6.4 YPC).


“Marlin (Lane) is a little more elusive kind of guy, change of direction,” Dooley said. “Tom is a little more of a hammer-knocker. He’s a physical guy. He came from a Wing-T offense. They just teach you in the Wing-T to run straight and you don’t even look up. You just run. Whoever hits you, you just go. We have to teach them that if there’s a defender there, you’re allowed to do a little (juke) and get on the edge. He hasn’t learned that yet, but he hits and he pushes forward.


“I think they’re going to complement each other very well. I’m going to tell you what they both have. They’re tough. And that’s a starting point at running back.”



Head coach Derek Dooley

(On senior linebacker Austin Johnson)

“He’s been a good solid mike (linebacker) for us. I think that’s where he can help us the most. I think he’s comfortable there. He has nice command and leadership on defense.”


(On Tennessee drawing too many penalties during Saturday’s scrimmage)

“Probably the biggest disappointment, but not surprising was the penalties. We had an inordinate amount of penalties on both sides of the ball. This is the first time really that there’s been consequences for their penalties. We had officials at the last scrimmage but it was kind of the flag gets thrown and we tell the guy ‘Don’t hold.’ No consequence. It’s a real young team. Penalties come for a lot of reasons. It can be just a discipline situation or it could be you’re not playing your technique right and then you do something because you’re out of your position. We have to really correct that. We had a lot of penalties in some critical times.”


(On the risk of injuries during scrimmages)

“You’re always nervous about (injuries). I love scrimmages because they get to play and you get to evaluate them but you’re always worried about them. The minute you start worrying about guys getting hurt and you start protecting them, then you have a team that can’t block and tackle. I’ve always tried to never coach worrying about injuries but not being dumb about it. They’re always going to happen. We just hope they don’t happen anything serious to our guys.”



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