KNOXVILLE-Tennessee's defense is probably further along in the process of mastering its playbook than its offensive counterparts, but that alone might not have been the sole reason the Volunteers' defense took the bragging rights from Saturday afternoon's first spring scrimmage.
"It was a total dominating first half by the defense," UT coach Derek Dooley said, "and it was strictly because of more effort, more toughness, more enthusiasm, more spirit - all the intangibles."
It's not unusual for defenses to be ahead of offenses this time of year in terms of having the kind of comfort level with the system that allows thinking less and playing faster
"We've got most of our stuff in," linebacker John Propst said. "[On] defense you've just got to have a lot of energy flying around and that kind of confuses the offense at first when they're trying to put plays in at first."
Though UT's defense, which is without its top four tacklers from last season this spring, may have won the day, don't expect any of the bunch to be satisfied with the performance.
"There's a lot of things we need to work on as a defense as a whole," defensive end Jacques Smith said. "The scrimmage was really good because we can see the things that we did wrong and the things that we did right, and we still have a lot of things that we need to correct. It's a really good insight.
Added cornerback Marsalis Teague: "Everybody's going to feel like they could do better, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It's always good to feel like you can keep improving and that's how we'll get better."
In a rush
UT's defense notched five sacks and six quarterback hurries on Saturday.
"Starting out with a pass rush, we completely dominated," said Smith, the former Ooltewah High School star. "That was something like everything [defensive line] Coach [Lance] Thompson had talked about in the meetings before."
Malik Jackson had a sack and three tackles for loss, and reserve Rae Sykes added another. Smith and end Willie Bohannon had a hurry apiece, and tackle Marlon Walls added two more. Reserve linebacker Nigel Mitchell-Thornton had two sacks and a pick.
According to the stats, UT's offense attempted just 30 running plays (out of roughly 100 total), meaning the Vols' secondary had a busy day. That group, which is without star Janzen Jackson (personal) for spring and lost the versatile Prentiss Waggner to injury during the scrimmage, responded well.
Safety Brent Brewer led the defense with six tackles and an interception, cornerback Anthony Anderson returned an interception 81 yards for a score, safety Dontavis Sapp had a sack and true freshman cornerback Justin Coleman had four tackles.