KNOXVILLE — It didn't take long for Tennessee's Orange and White Game to turn into a showcase of the Volunteers' young offensive talent.
It also served as a reminder Tennessee may need similar first-year contributions from the handful of defensive newcomers arriving this summer.
Five-star freshman receiver Josh Malone caught touchdown passes of 49, 6 and 79 yards, and tailback Jalen Hurd flashed the ability that earned him a five-star recruiting ranking as Tennessee's second-team defense was gashed all afternoon at Neyland Stadium.
For the second straight spring game under Butch Jones, Tennessee used an offense-against-defense format with a confusing modified scoring system to determine a winner.
Yet it was the second-team offense, with Nathan Peterman and Josh Dobbs rotating at quarterback, that appeared to have a clear advantage on its defensive counterparts.
The offense scored five straight touchdowns against the second-team defense after quarterback Justin Worley led the opening drive of the game to a 41-yard George Bullock field goal.
Hurd, the 6-foot-3, 221-pound tailback, turned a short catch into a 27-yard gain, then capped the drive by powering in from 4 yards out.
Malone took over the on the second-team's series, taking a bubble screen 25 yards before snaring a dart from Dobbs on a post pattern against fellow freshman D'Andre Payne and taking it 49 yards to the end zone. The Station Camp High School product hauled in an over-the-top 79-yard touchdown pass from Dobbs after halftime.
On the third touchdown, Dobbs sprinted 59 yards after dropping a shotgun snap.
Malone capped the fourth series with a tough 6-yard touchdown catch from Peterman on a slant against Payne. Freshman tight end Ethan Wolf made two catches, including a 15-yarder on fourth-and-2, and Hurd had a 14-yard run on which he stiff-armed safety Geraldo Orta.
Though Worley and Riley Ferguson had pulled slightly ahead of Dobbs and Peterman in Tennessee's quarterback competition this spring, the duo found the going more difficult.
Ferguson's first two series ended in three-and-outs, and on the third, he was hit from behind by blitzing safety Devaun Swafford and fumbled, with defensive tackle Danny O'Brien recovering.
Worley hit Marquez North for 31 yards on the third play of the game, and the drive ended in Bullock's field goal. The Vols' first-team defense stuffed Marlin Lane on a fourth-and-short on his second series.
Worley and North hooked up for a 50-yard score, on which North had freshman All-SEC corner Cam Sutton beat by a few yards, to cap 93-yard drive.
Between pairs of early drives, Jones had the Vols mix in some 1-on-1s. Jason Croom, Josh Smith and freshman tight end Daniel Helm caught touchdowns on goal-line reps against the secondary.
Jones included a modified version of the "circle of life," a practice staple, in which two players squared off in a bull-in-the-ring drill on the "Power T" logo at midfield. The eight matchups drew big cheers from the crowd and featured a few helmets popping off onto the turf.
Worley and Ferguson each led touchdown drives to open the second half of the game. Worley hit Malone for 14 yards, Helm for 6 and took a keeper 49 yards to the 1 after breaking a tackle. Lane punched it in a play after Worley's long run.
Ferguson was 4-of-4 on his scoring drive and threw a 19-yard scoring pass to Cody Blanc, but he was intercepted by Malik Foreman late in the game.
A.J. Johnson, Tennessee's All-SEC middle linebacker, appeared to get most of the afternoon off, which took another key piece away from the Vols' defense. Safety Brian Randolph has been out this spring coming off shoulder surgery.
Right guard Kyler Kerbyson and defensive end Corey Vereen took home spring awards for the most improved players on offense and defense, North and walk-on tight end Joe Stocstill took home the Iron Vol awards for their work in the strength and conditioning program.
Curt Maggitt earned the inaugural Al Wilson Award for leadership and was presented with a plaque by the former Tennessee linebacker, the leader of the 1998 national championship team.
More coverage online and in Sunday's Times Free Press.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...