KNOXVILLE — With media locked out, reports from University of Tennessee football scrimmages are reliant on the words of coach Derek Dooley and his players.
To hear Dooley say it, the Volunteers offense clearly won camp’s first big scrimmage Tuesday in Neyland Stadium.
Quarterbacks Matt Simms and Tyler Bray both tossed touchdowns, and tailback Tauren Poole made the most of his brief playing time on a day that featured no turnovers.
“If there’s one lesson coming out of this, it’s that if you’re not mentally ready to play, you’re going to get your tail whipped,” Dooley said. “I thought the offense was mentally ready to play, and the defense wasn’t ... from the first play of the game.”
That first play was a simple handoff that Poole took 49 yards to the 10, where sophomore safety Prentiss Waggner wrestled him down near the sideline.
“Pre Wag had the angle, but I should have cut it back on him. My mistake,” Poole said. “But it was a good day. We all hit the hole well, but that’s only because the O-line was blocking well, and the receivers on the perimeter.”
Simms completed 9 of 21 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. Bray, who also worked some with the starters, completed 11 of 22 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown.
“I think we did really well on offense,” Simms said. “I think we executed the running game really well, and that young offensive line is really coming around. There was definitely positive yardage on the running game on almost every play, and the decision-making was pretty good.
“We’re definitely feeling more comfortable out there.”
Dooley said “no” when asked if there was any reason to not consider Simms his starter, but the coach heaped plenty of praise on Bray, too.
“Tyler’s doing great, too. They’re both really doing well, and they’re both different. I think ultimately, we’re going to evaluate them on how we move the ball and score points. It doesn’t matter how we get there.
“Tyler does so some things better than Matt, and Matt does some things better than Tyler. I think Matt stays ahead at this stage of the game because of his experience, and his knowledge of the offense and his command. But we’re going to need both of them. I’m just telling you right now, it’s not going to be one of those (situations). They’re both good players, and we’re going to need both of them. And I’m happy with where they are. That doesn’t mean we’re ready to go play with them.”
Photo by Adam Brimer/Knoxville News Sentinal Tennessee quarterback Matt Simms throws the ball during practice at Neyland Stadium Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010.
Poole finished with 62 yards and a touchdown on just two carries. Sophomore David Oku continued what Dooley called a “great camp” by gaining 52 yards on 11 offensive touches. Redshirt freshman Toney Williams added 14 yards on four carries, and freshman Rajion Neal had 14 yards on six carries.
“The biggest thing was we came out focused on offense,” senior offensive guard Jarrod Shaw said. “When you come out focused, it makes all the difference. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got long way to go. We have to keep on getting better.”
Senior Denarius Moore led the receivers with 85 yards on five catches, the biggest being a 49-yard touchdown. Freshman Justin Hunter had 56 yards on three catches, and freshman Da’Rick Rogers from Calhoun High School added 15 yards on three grabs. Senior Gerald Jones had a 30-yard catch, and senior tight end Luke Stocker had a 3-yard touchdown.
“We were used to (forcing) more turnovers, but if anything, that’s a pat on the back to the offense,” senior middle linebacker Nick Reveiz said. “I think they did a great job today as far as protecting the ball.
“Tauren, it’s not secret that when he’s on this field, he does big things. I’m excited about Saturdays.”
Senior defensive linemen Gerald Williams and Chris Walker had different takes on the struggles of a defense that played without sophomore safety Janzen Jackson (hamstring).
“The good news is you’re never as good as you think, and you’re never as bad as you think,” Williams said. “We’ll get in and watch film and learn and make the corrections.”
Said Walker: “I’m really glad this is just the first scrimmage instead of us getting ready to go into our first game.”
Dooley sounded more like Walker, comparing most of his defensive linemen to “a sack of potatoes.”
“Some of them have a little different shape,” Dooley said. “Some have a lot more dots than others. Some are longer. Some have more girth. But it’s still just a big sack of potatoes.”
Freshman linebacker John Propst, working with the reserves, led the Vols with five tackles. Sophomore cornerback Marsalis Teague, a converted wide receiver, added four stops. Senior linebacker Savion Frazier, freshman defensive end Corey Miller and sophomore defensive end Willie Bohannon registered sacks.
Senior linebacker Kevin Cooper from Chattanooga missed the scrimmage with a headache that Dooley specified wasn’t a concussion.
The Vols won’t practice today, giving the what Dooley called “a good chance for us to evaluate our personnel.”
“We’re going to just do a bunch of meetings and film, recover, and then get ready for a two-a-day after that,” the coach said.
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