By Will Woodbery, Correspondent
KNOXVILLE — It was no “pick fest,” but Tennessee first-year offensive coordinator Dave Clawson said he still wasn’t fully satisfied with the play of his quarterbacks during Saturday’s scrimmage at Neyland Stadium.
In the first drive of the game, defensive back Anthony Anderson intercepted junior Jonathan Crompton’s pass intended for tight end Luke Stocker. Later on, McCallie’s B.J. Coleman got picked off by linebacker Rico McCoy, who made a near-perfect read to intercept the slant pass and returned it 53 yards to the goal line.
But those blemishes to the quarterbacks’ stat sheets were minor compared to last week, when UT was intercepted four times, three for Crompton.
“I thought we forced the ball less today than we did a week ago, but we still turned it over,” Clawson said. “If you turn it over once, it’s one too many times.”
Clawson said Crompton’s turnover didn’t necessarily reflect his performance as a whole.
“He got off to a great start except for one play,” Clawson said. “I think we leave the scrimmage feeling really good about what he did if you take away a bad play. ... We’ve got to eliminate that one play.”
Crompton, who went 17-for-22 with 146 yards, shrugged off his interception as a miscommunication with Stocker.
“We’ve still got a ways to go,” Crompton said. “We’re still learning. That’s the hard part about learning a new offense in the spring. But we’re trying. We’re getting better every day.”
Clawson said the process of learning a new offensive system has hampered players from going full speed this spring. But with the offense nearly completely installed, Saturday was different.
“We’re not where we need to be, but it looked like guys played faster today,” he said.
Gerald Jones may have been one of them.
“Now we’ve got the whole offense in, and now we can just worry about the whole offense instead of putting something new in every day,” said Jones, who had seven receptions for 55 yards and scored twice, once on special teams. “That’s the reason why our scrimmages have been a little shaky, because we’ve been concentrating on what we have to do and it’s been messing us up.”
The quarterbacks, who were playing full-contact for the first time in a Saturday scrimmage this spring, couldn’t afford to overthink plays with live pressure.
“That’s football. It’s nice to play for real,” said quarterback Nick Stephens, who completed 10 of 15 passes for 69 yards. “I got hit a few times, the first time in a while.”
Said Crompton: “I didn’t have much contact, but it felt good just to play ball.”
Stephens had the only two passing touchdowns, a 19-yard strike to Jones and a 6-yarder to Quintin Hancock. Crompton scored on two goal line sneaks.
No proms for Poole
Tailback Tauren Poole didn’t let a torn meniscus deter him during Saturday’s scrimmage.
The January enrollee, who head coach Phillip Fulmer has said will probably have surgery after the Orange and White game, had 45 yards on 17 carries.
“That kid’s a tough kid,” running backs coach Stan Drayton said. “He knows how to handle adversity, which is really unique for a guy who should be going to high school proms. He’s going to be fine. He’s going to be a special player.”
Fulmer said Poole had “his best day as a running back at Tennessee. I think he’s going to be really good.”
Rounding out the rushing game, Lennon Creer led the team with 47 yards on 10 attempts and first-team back Arian Foster had 38 yards on seven carries.
Kicker Daniel Lincoln hit all but one field-goal try, a pretty remarkable feat considering the blustery conditions Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
“He’s got a pretty good mindset about that,” Fulmer said. “You can’t let those things bother you. I’ve had kickers or punters, they get psycho about it. He’s more of a football player. That doesn’t bother him too much.”
Williams at tailback
With Daryl Vereen’s recent move to the secondary, receiver and special teamer Ja’Kouri Williams got reps in at tailback Saturday.
“He’s given us some nice little plays. So I’m glad he’s back there,” Fulmer said. “We’re going to sit down after the spring and decide whether he wants to play that role and special teams or transfer to a Division II school where he’d play a lot more. That’ll be up to him and me. I’m glad he’s here.”
Linebacker Savion Frazier and defensive back Derrick Furlow each had 13 tackles and two tackles for loss to pace the defense. ... Denarius Moore blocked a punt and Jones scooped it up to run 25 yards for the score. ... Offensive lineman William Brimfield sprained his ankle.
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Rushing leaders (Att.-Yds.-TD): Lennon Creer 10-47-1; Tauren Poole 17-45-0; Arian Foster 7-38-0; Reece Lovell 1-30-1; Jonathan Crompton 7-19-2.
Passing leaders (Att.-Comp.-Int.-Yds.-TD): Jonathan Crompton 22-17-1-146-0; Nick Stephens 15-10-0-69-2; B.J. Coleman 19-7-1-41-0; Barry Cunningham 3-2-1-12-0.
Receiving leaders (No.-Yds.-TD): Gerald Jones 7-55-1; Quintin Hancock 7-41-1; Kevin Cooper 3-32-0; Luke Stocker 4-29-0; Ahmad Paige 3-26-0; Arian Foster 2-23-0; Tauren Poole 2-14-0; Lennon Creer 1-13-0; Denarius Moore 2-11-0.
Defensive leaders: Savion Frazier 13 tackles, 2 TFL (-5); Derrick Furlow 13 tackles, 2 TFL (-5), PBU; Nick Reveiz 8 tackles; Ellix Wilson 8 tackles; Rico McCoy 7 tackles, interception (53 yards); Art Evans 7 tackles, PBU; Ben Martin 5 tackles, 2 sacks (-4); Dan Williams 5 tackles, sack (-3), TFL (-1), PBU; Robert Ayers 4 tackles, 2 sacks (12), TFL (-2); Wes Brown 4 tackles, 2 sacks (-12); Anthony Anderson 4 tackles, interception (21 yards); Dennis Rogan 4 tackles, PBU; DeAngelo Willingham 4 tackles, TFL (-2); Daryl Vereen 4 tackles, TFL (-1); LaMarcus Thompson 3 tackles, PBU; Demonte’ Bolden 3 tackles, PBU; Eric Berry 3 tackles; Vince Faison 3 tackles; Donald Langley 3 tackles, TFL (-3); Jake Storey 3 tackles.
Punting: Chad Cunningham 6 punts, 40.0 avg.
Field goals: Daniel Lincoln made 5-of-6, long 39; Devin Mathis made 6-of-10, long 39.
Offensive starters: OT Chris Scott and Ramon Foster, OG Vladimir Richard and Jacques McClendon, C Anthony Parker, WR Gerald Jones and Josh Briscoe, QB Jonathan Crompton, RB Arian Foster, FB Kevin Cooper, TE Luke Stocker.
Defensive starters: DE Robert Ayers and Wes Brown, DT Demonte’ Bolden and Dan Williams, LB Rico McCoy, Ellix Wilson and Adam Myers-White, CB DeAngelo Willingham and Dennis Rogan, FS Demetrice Morley, SS Eric Berry.
Scoring plays: Jones 19 pass from Stephens; Hancock 6 pass from Stephens; Creer 4 run; Lovell 30 run; Crompton 1 run; Jones 25 blocked punt return; Crompton 1 run.