KNOXVILLE — Lane Kiffin walked off the Tennessee football practice field Tuesday afternoon frustrated with a defense that hadn’t forced a turnover all day.
Still, two days later wasn’t what the Volunteers’ new coach had in mind.
UT’s quarterbacks threw at least four interceptions Thursday at Haslam Field, and probably a few more. At least two others were thrown after sacks were credited on a sunny afternoon without pads.
“Unfortunately, it was a really horrendous day for the quarterbacks,” Kiffin said.
And the defense loved every bit of it, starting at the top. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin openly joked about “calling off the dogs” in his secondary at one point.
Lane Kiffin said his father and the defensive assistants started barking at Thursday’s 8 a.m. coaches’ meeting.
“With the last practice not getting turnovers, they took that personal and kind of came after some of the offensive coaches in the staff meeting and told them how it was going to be today,” the head coach said. “And they called it right, because they came out here and backed it up.
“The defensive coaches came out with a lot of confidence today, and their players fed off of them.”
Quarterbacks Jonathan Crompton and B.J. Coleman didn’t hide their disappointment, though Chattanooga’s Coleman, as usual, found the silver lining.
“How about this day and this weather? Are you kidding me? It’s great,” Coleman said with a smile before addressing Thursday’s problems.
“We came out today and we had on just helmets and shoulder pads, and I think we got a little bit lackadaisical,” Coleman said. “It’s never part of (the process) to turn the ball over, but I think that it does happen along the way sometimes.”
Lane Kiffin said his frustration grew as Crompton, Coleman and Nick Stephens repeated mistakes multiple times. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney reached a boiling point when two of them threw hurried interceptions rather than taking sacks.
“Obviously we’ve got to get better,” said Crompton, whose hot spring start has cooled in the past week. “You can’t make bad plays worse. It’s definitely frustrating, but it’s something you’ve got to learn from.
“You’ve got to go out there and see what you did wrong and correct it and don’t do it again. That’s something I know with myself, especially, that I have been striving for a little more.”
Chaney said he expected some breakdowns on a day that also featured several installed pass-protection wrinkles, “but not at the volume that it took place.
“I’m not happy at all with how everything went, but what the heck? You’ve got to go to the next day and try to get it better,” Chaney continued. “It ain’t the end of the world. A lot of the things we tried to do today, it was the first time out, so we’re going to go in and try to get better at it.
“Rome wasn’t built overnight. We’re installing a whole new system, and we expect some mistakes. Those are tolerable. I think sometimes what upset me today a little bit was some effort issues. We’ll take care of those.”
Chaney, whose reputation as a jokester is spreading faster than Thursday’s turnovers, said the afternoon’s protection issues complicated the problem.
Asked how many offensive linemen he’d feel comfortable playing at this point, Chaney said, “One.
“Oh, we need five?” Chaney continued. “No, I’m joking. I’m joking. Really, that’s a hard question to answer. There’s days I like eight or nine of them. There’s days I like six of them. There’s days I like 10 of them.”
There wasn’t much to like about Thursday’s offensive execution, though Coleman led the second team on a nice scoring drive near the end of team drills.
“I think that’s something we can build on,” the former McCallie School star said.
UT will have its final pre-Orange and White game scrimmage this morning before taking Easter weekend off. Kiffin and Co. hope to find a happy medium between Tuesday’s and Thursday’s turnover statistics.
“We have such high expectations and standards for them, so it’s very disappointing,” the head coach said. “But we realize there are going to be setbacks at times, and people are going to make bad decisions.
“We’ve got to come out tomorrow and take care of the ball. We’ll really get after it and see what our guys can do before we give them a good weekend off.”
Langley is done
Donald Langley has parted ways with the team, two sources close to the program told The Times Free Press on Thursday night.
Attempts to reach Langley and Kiffin about the subject weren’t successful, but the player — a 6-foot-2, 288-pound sophomore-to-be — was clearly frustrated with his recent switch from defensive tackle to offensive guard.
Langley is the second scholarship player to leave the program in the past week, joining tailback Lennon Creer. Coaches have asked both to finish the academic semester at UT, which would help their transfer process and the program’s NCAA Academic Progress Report ranking.