KNOXVILLE — Tennessee resurrected the G-Gun offense Tuesday.
And the E-Gun.
And maybe some Double Barrel.
Rising sophomores Gerald Jones and Eric Berry took snaps under center in individual and team drills Tuesday afternoon at Haslam Field. There’s also been talk of the duo lining up together in the backfield.
First-year coordinator Dave Clawson claims to build each season’s offense around that team’s best playmakers, and Jones and Berry have been two of the Vols’ best athletes since enrolling in school last summer. Berry has proven himself to be one of the Southeastern Conference’s most dynamic players, and Jones showed flashes of brilliance despite playing all last season with a nagging hamstring injury.
Jones, primarily a receiver, ran eight times for 63 yards and two touchdowns as a shotgun quarterback last season for the Volunteers in the “G-Gun” formation.
Berry, primarily a defensive back, was second nationally with 222 return yards on five interceptions last season. But he, like Jones, was a star quarterback in high school.
“Same as we’ve done in the past, we’re going to try to get the ball to good players,” head coach Phillip Fulmer said.
Both players were visibly excited about their quarterback possibilities, and Jones said he was also relieved. Clawson told him several times that he couldn’t try quarterback until he got a firm grasp of his receiver responsibilities.
“It’s fun to get to play quarterback and put your best players in the best positions to help the team win,” Jones said. “I think I’m very comfortable with this offense. I’m not worried about what route I’ve got to run or who I’ve got to block.
“I’m pretty confident with everything I need to do, and I think (coaches) realize that.”
Berry play some quarterback last preseason, but coaches ultimately felt playing essentially every snap on defense as a freshman was enough. An embarrassment of riches in the secondary makes Fulmer and defensive coordinator John Chavis more comfortable giving Berry some looks on offense.
“It was a flashback to high school,” Berry said. “It didn’t last long, but I enjoyed it, for what it was.”
Berry was recruited by several coaches — including Fulmer — as a two-way player, but he never publicly complained about last season’s role.
“I really just kind of forgot about it,” Berry said. “I just kind of let it play out how it was going to play. If they called my number, I was just going to jump in there.
“(Jones) was doing so well that you couldn’t really say anything. He was doing a good job, and it was helping us win, so I really wasn’t too concerned about it.”
Rising senior tailback Arian Foster said defenses would have “a really hard time” with Berry.
“Shoot, that would be fun,” Foster said. “If they keep that in, that’s going to be fun.”
Added Jones: “Oh, man, that puts a big smile on my face to see him (Berry) get to come over to the offense and make big plays. You know he can do it. We call him ‘Superman,’ because he can do the unthinkable.”
Berry loves to think about playing in the same backfield with Jones. The two bonded early last season and have become good friends.
“We go up against each other every day in practice ... and he always tells me throughout the day that we should make each other better,” Berry said. “If we were on the same side together, that would be pretty crazy.”
A sloppy Tuesday
Fulmer said he was “wasn’t really happy” with Tuesday’s practice, especially considering how much improvement he saw in Saturday’s scrimmage.
“I told them that I wanted this to have the energy of the first day of spring practice,” he said. “But we played like it was the first day of spring practice.
“It was a very physical practice. We had a lot of contact and live inside stuff. We stretched them, and some of the guys didn’t respond very well. Until we get that straightened out, we’re not going to be the kind of football team we need to be.”
Foster said Clawson’s offense, unlike David Cutcliffe’s two years ago, was “completely brand new to Tennessee.”
“It’s apples and oranges,” Foster said. “You can’t say it’s more complicated. It’s just a different offense. When Cut came in, it was a little bit different, because he had already coached under Coach Fulmer. He already knew a lot of the terminologies that people wanted to use, and there wasn’t a lot of speaking different languages. Everybody kind of was already on the same page.
“Now it’s like, ‘Here comes a guy that doesn’t really know the whole history of Tennessee and everything.’ It’s brand new, but it’s going to be OK.”
But it’s not OK right now. At least it wasn’t Tuesday.
“You know, I’m upset with practice, too,” Jones said. “I hate to use the word, but I’m very (ticked) off with how we practiced today, because we made mental mistakes — jumping offsides, making the wrong reads, throwing interceptions.”
Fulmer said he wasn’t “assuming anything” this spring, because “that’s what gets your (tail) beat.
“Some of the older guys did very well, and some of the younger guys did very well,” Fulmer continued. “But we’ve got some guys that aren’t very mentally tough — just a few, but all it takes is a few players, and you don’t get the results you want.
“Those guys are going to end up not playing. Somebody’s going to take their jobs.”