Butch Jones unhappy with UT Vols' approach in scrimmage

photo Tennessee head coach Butch Jones

KNOXVILLE - Butch Jones switched up Tennessee's midweek training camp schedule, swapping a day-night two-a-day set of practice for a closed scrimmage under the lights of Neyland Stadium.

The Volunteers' second-year coach wasn't exactly thrilled with the results.

Jones lamented the number of big plays his defense allowed and other mistakes after Tennessee's second preseason scrimmage on Wednesday night.

"As a whole, I didn't like our approach," he said. "I thought we lacked intensity and gave up way too many big plays defensively. I didn't think we came to play defensively, too many pre-snap penalties on offense and a lot of teaching moments.

"Some individuals now are starting to distance themselves from the pack," he added, "So we'll go back tonight, we'll grade the film and we'll start to define people's roles on this football team."

Tennessee is just past the midpoint of preseason practice, and preparations for the season opener against Utah State will begin in earnest in a little more than a week.

Though he came out of the Vols' first preseason scrimmage with positive vibes, Jones was unhappy with missed tackles, bad shotgun snaps and a poor mentality defensively as Tennessee worked through a handful of situations with coaches in the press box, as they'd normally be during a game.

Most of the disappointment appeared to lie with Tennessee's defense.

"We have a lot of installation in, and it comes down to execution and the downloading of information of being able to play fast," Jones said. "That's not an excuse. Our older players have actually done a great job of really mentoring the younger players in terms of their assignments and spending time, but again you have to be able to play fast.

"Football is a game played by intelligent people. You have to think fast and you have to make split-second decisions."

In terms of evaluating big plays, Jones said he primarily looks to see if there was a breakdown defensively.

"Was the big play produced because of a mistake, or is it just a player making a great play and maybe a great throw?" he said. "A lot of times, players make plays. Sometimes there's great coverage, and he just goes up and makes a great play.

"The thing we can't tolerate, the thing that's unacceptable is big plays that lead to mistakes, blown assignments, lack of technique, lost leverage on the football. Mental errors cost football teams."

Decision coming?

Jones said a decision on Tennessee's starting quarterback could come in the next couple of days.

Justin Worley most likely will get the nod, though Jones indicated all three -- the senior Worley, Nathan Peterman and Josh Dobbs -- played well on Wednesday.

"I'm hoping maybe in the next day or two we'll make that decision," Jones said. "I think it's important for our football team in moving forward that they know who the starting quarterback is. I've been pleased with all three individuals lately.

"They've done a very, very good job of handling the volume of the offense that we have in, but more particularly taking care of the football and making great decisions with football and having command of the line of scrimmage.

"We've charted every single throw every quarterback has made in practice, and very soon we'll name a starter."

Malone emerges

In listing some of the players who came up with big plays offensively on Wednesday night, one name stood out.

Josh Malone.

"He's had a tough camp," Jones said of the freshman receiver. "I'm very proud of him. He fought back. He's been battling some injuries. I thought tonight he really stepped it up. It was very encouraging. Josh Malone is a very prideful individual.

"He expects to do great things, and it's part of that maturity level is when things don't quite the way you planned, which is life, how do you handle the next snap? How do you bounce back" I thought he bounced back exceptionally well."

Jones also named Josh Smith, Jason Croom, Von Pearson and Pig Howard as those who made plays on Wednesday.

Center of attention

Mack Crowder continues to miss practice time with what appears to be an ankle injury, and guard Dylan Wiesman, who also can play center, has missed nearly all of camp.

Kyler Kerbyson, normally Tennessee's right guard, got first-team work at center Tuesday, but there's been some issues with shotgun snaps this week in Crowder's absence.

The quarterbacks and centers stuck around long after the scrimmage ended to get some extra work on snaps.

"We're still not there with the accuracy of our snaps of being perfect to run our offense," Jones said. "Our centers have got to step it up with their shotgun snaps."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.