Vols' offense moves ball smoothly in scrimmage

Vols' offense moves ball smoothly in scrimmage

August 9th, 2009 by Wes Rucker in Sports - College

KNOXVILLE -- Coach Lane Kiffin said he expected his Tennessee offense to perform well Saturday.

How many people shared his confidence before the Volunteers' first major preseason scrimmage is another matter, but Kiffin hardly cracked a smile after watching the first- and second-team offenses effortlessly move the ball and score against the defense on a hot August afternoon.

"That's our expectation on every drive, to move the ball like that," Kiffin said. "That was not surprising at all. When we don't do it, it's disappointing, so it's surprising when we don't score a touchdown every series."

Senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton completed his first nine passes, going 3-for-3 with a 20-yard touchdown pass to tailback Tauren Poole on the quick opening possession.

UT didn't release official statistics, but Crompton unofficially finished 11-for-14 with 177 yards, and Poole added about 145 rushing yards, including scores from 77 and 45 yards.

"It seems like every time we walk in this stadium, (Poole) seems to make a big run, so he continues to show up," offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. "There's so much competition at that position right now, that is fantastic, and I think everybody can see that.

"I think competition at a position brings out the best in everybody, and that's what it's about right now. But, yeah, we're pleased with Tauren."

Freshmen tailbacks Bryce Brown and David Oku played well, scoring on 3-yard runs and breaking loose on other occasions. Oku had a 40-yard run called back because of a holding penalty, and Brown responded from a vicious hit by reserve linebacker Shane Reveiz to power outside for 15 yards and a first down on the next play.

Junior quarterback Nick Stephens, working mostly with the second-team offense, wasn't quite as sharp as Crompton but still unofficially finished 9-for-13 for 100 yards.

Junior receiver Gerald Jones didn't seem bothered by the cast on his recovering wrist, catching several passes, including a 68-yarder that set up Crompton's 1-yard touchdown toss to junior wideout Brandon Warren.

And, perhaps most importantly, UT's first and second offenses didn't turn over the ball. Stephens lost a center exchange, but the offense retained possession.

"If anything, we leave here confident that we minimized the turnovers," senior guard Vladimir Richard said. "In yesterday's practice, the defense just kind of took it to us, and the coaches challenged us. We know what we can do when we put our mind up to it, so we just had to get in that mode where we stopped waiting for the defense to get a hard hit and get hyped before we go at it. We wanted to take it to them today, and we just feel really confident coming out without any turnovers.

"I think today, I would say, was fair and OK. I don't want to say it was too great without watching the film. But one thing I can say is we feel more confident now than we did before today."

And they should feel more confident, Kiffin said. But not overconfident.

"Coming out of the spring game, (the offense) felt good about themselves, but the defense was limited in what they were doing, and we know that," Kiffin said. "The defense was not limited today. They threw a lot at them, and we didn't say, 'Don't do this,' or 'Don't do that.' You saw a bunch of multiple blitzes today and them being able to pick it up.

"That was really good, but let's not put us in the Sugar Bowl yet. It's one scrimmage, so we've got a long ways to go."

Crompton claimed he had "no idea" he completed his first nine passes.

"You get in the flow of a game, and you really don't pay attention to it," the senior said. "You just concentrate on the drives and moving the ball and things like that.

"We're another day along. Obviously, when we got to our (next) practice on Monday, we'll feel a lot better than we did today, and we'll go from there."

Chaney said he was "always hesitant" to judge a scrimmage completely before seeing the video.

"I think the guys played pretty hard for us," he said. "I think Coach kept a lot of simpler plays out there for the kids to see if they can execute. We're trying to evaluate players individually to see where they fit in our system right now.

"They appear to have done a pretty good job, so we'll see when we get on the video."

Chaney declined to give a detailed assessment of Crompton's day but said early returns were positive.

"He made some good reads out there and threw the ball pretty accurately for the most part," Chaney said. "I'm sure there'll be things that as coaches we'll pick it apart, but right now just the first impression I think that was accurate."

Junior defensive end Chris Walker was noticeably peeved several times Saturday, and he admitted the defense "never really got it going and kept it going.

"We take pride in being the best defense, so I think we're just going to have to go back and work," Walker said. "That's not how we're going to play. We're just going to have to scrimmage and play better."