Tennessee’s 2nd spring scrimmage: Notes and observations from Neyland Stadium

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — This time, there was no tinkering with the score needed.

The scoreboard for Saturday’s scrimmage — Defense 86, Offense 63 — really did tell the tale of the day. Tennessee’s defense was better than the offense at Neyland Stadium, and sometimes overwhelmingly so.

“I think we’re making strides defensively,” said Tennessee coach Butch Jones. “Our offense needs to step up. Someone needs to take full ownership.”

Who stood out? Jones praised receiver Jason Croom and linebacker Dontavis Sapp.

“He’s been amazing,” Jones said of Sapp. “He’s done everything right. He’s been a joy to coach so far.”

Jones said he continues to harp on turnovers and penalties, and used the mic to make his point several times on Saturday.

“Our margin for error for this team is very small. You guys can see that,” Jones said afterwards. “We can’t have penalties and turnovers.”

* In what has been a miserable spring weather-wise in Knoxville, the Vols have lucked out in their two Saturday scrimmages with sun and clear skies. Today couldn’t have been more perfect spring football weather.

* There was a scary moment on the very first play of the scrimmage — a kickoff. Receiver Vincent Dallas was down for several minutes. Trainers held his head still. Later, they appeared to go through the full concussion protocol. He ran off the field under his own power, and Jones said the steps were precautionary and that he should be fine.

The only other new injury was freshman receiver Paul Harris, who hurt his hamstring.

* Junior quarterback Justin Worley worked with the first team today. Other guys who did most or all of their work with the first team group included receivers Jason Croom, Cody Blanc and Alton “Pig” Howard and linemen Marcus Jackson, James Stone, Zach Fulton, Ja’Wuan James and Alex Bullard.

* The first-team defense most often included Marlon Walls, Jacques Smith, Dan Hood and Daniel McCullers up front, linebackers Brent Brewer and A.J. Johnson and defensive backs Brian Randolph and Justin Coleman.

* Michael Palardy boomed some really nice punts, and Jones has certainly left open the possibility that he could handle kickoffs, field goals and punts this year.

He missed a 48-yarder early, but kicked a 40-yarder in “overtime.” Redshirt freshman George Bullock also nailed about a 40-yarder for the second team.

* A.J. Johnson had a couple of big hits, including one on running back Marlin Lane. On that crunch, Johnson hit Lane just as he caught the ball. It popped out, but was ruled an incomplete pass rather than a fumble.

* Hill ran hard through a big hole for one of of the offense’s biggest gains of the day. Jones tacked on 15 yards for a horse collar.

Hill will probably never be a star at UT, but coaches have praised his attitude and effort this spring.

* Alton Howard had a fumble on a kickoff return, a big no-no. Jones docked the offense like 35 points for the infraction.

* The defense had a series of thr
ee-and-out stops in the “second half” of the scrimmage, including one punctuated by a sack of Peterman and another in which Worley had a ball batted down at the line of scrimmage by Johnson.

After one of the sacks, Jones yelled into the mic, “SACK! Where’s that high-priced O-line?!”

* Freshman defensive end Corey Vereen was “ejected” from the scrimmage after a late shove. I didn’t see how it started.

“No. 50 (Vereen) is kicked out of the game!” Jones yelled. “Take his helmet and take his pads off. We’re not doing that around here!”

Later, Jones referred to Vereen as a “high-character” kid who “felt awful about it.”

“That was an opportunity to make a point,” Jones said. “Everything is a teaching moment.”

* There weren’t many big catches today. Blanc may have had the best one — an over-the-shoulder grab — but he was well out of bounds.

* The end of the scrimmage had all sorts of late-game and overtime scenarios. In some cases, Jones decreed that the offense was down by 8 and needed a score. Other times, only 3 points were needed.

* The biggest hit of overtime came when defensive back Geraldo Orta hit Alden Hill, rallying the defense.

* One more note: Jones confirmed that director of recruiting JR Sandlin, who was hired from Alabama four months ago, is no longer with UT.

“JR has moved on and is no longer part of the program,” Jones said.

As for the search for his replacement, Jones said it’s “ongoing.”

* Much more on the scrimmage coming later today.

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