KNOXVILLE -- A spring spent behind closed doors will conclude with a public showing today, when the University of Tennessee's first Orange and White football game under coach Derek Dooley kicks off around 2 p.m. in Neyland Stadium.
Depth-depleted UT was split into two teams earlier this week, with seniors drafting each side, and Dooley hopes the Volunteers prove everyone's monthlong wait worthwhile.
Asked what he most wanted to see today, Dooley simply said he wanted to see spirit.
"The main thing is starting with some values of how we compete," the coach said. "This is going to be the first opportunity for our fans to see us, and I hope we play with great effort and discipline and the toughness that we expect them to play with next fall."
Four things coaches want to see today
1. Explosive (or at least efficient) QB play
UT fans know the Vols' quarterback situation is a huge question mark, muddied further by the departure of experienced Nick Stephens last week. Junior college transfer Matt Simms and January enrollee Tyler Bray will start today's game, and both want to play well and head into the summer with momentum. Don't look for a fall starter to be named until closer to the season, but Simms and Bray could plant an important seed today.
2. Something, anything up front
As worrisome as UT's quarterback situation is, the offensive line potentially is even more problematic. Coaches will closely scrutinize the play of a completely new-look front five on each side today. In a perfect world, at least five guys will play well today, but at least three guys playing well is an absolute must for offseason spirits.
3. A new pass-game threat
Coaches have a pretty good idea what they're going to get next season from tight end Luke Stocker and top two receivers Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore, but they'd like to see another target step up and perform well today. Candidates to do that include wideouts Marsalis Teague and Zach Rogers and jumbo-sized January enrollee Matt Milton.
4. Consistent cornerbacks
The Vols had many more questions on offense than defense before spring practice started, and that's still the case today, but the temporary loss of experienced cornerback Art Evans has put less-experienced players such as Eric Gordon and Nyshier Oliver in the spotlight. Both talented youngsters have made and surrendered big plays all spring, and coaches don't want to see either get torched all afternoon.