Defense dictates opening scrimmage

( -- Tennessee’s defensive side made the most of Saturday’s first full scrimmage of the spring. Safety Demetrice Morley headlined a solid afternoon by UT’s secondary and tackle Dan Williams added the bulk up front as the Vols closed out their second week of drills.

Head coach Phillip Fulmer noted some of that was to be expected with the limited offensive package installed since the arrival of four new coaches during the off-season.

“We’re keeping it really basic right now as we insert the offense,” Fulmer said. “We only have around half of the offense inserted. It’s a lot more about players than plays right now. The defense made some outstanding hits in the scrimmage.”

Morley, a junior who has returned to the roster after missing 2007, had the defensive highlight with an interception and 23-yard return of a Jonathan Crompton pass attempt. Morley also added three tackles and one sack.

“Demetrice is a football player,” Fulmer said. “I’m excited about him being back. I know he is appreciative to have a second opportunity. I just want to see him consistently do the things off the field, in the classroom, that he is supposed to do and he is doing a real good job of that right now.”

Fulmer said the entire secondary is showing that last year’s early trials under fire have made a difference.

“There are a lot of guys that can fly around and make plays. You can see the difference, it’s night and day. There are no big balls given up and they’re breaking on the football. They are really playing well right now.” Williams also played smartly, batting down three passes to go with four tackles.

“Dan made a couple of fantastic plays today,” Fulmer said. “We batted some balls down but that also means you aren’t getting close to the quarterback. We don’t want to get in the habit of jumping in the air at the line of scrimmage. We have to rush the passer better.”

Crompton finished 7-of-15 for 55 yards and a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Luke Stocker. Backups at quarterback were Nick Stephens, who was 5-of-8 for 54 yards, and B.J. Coleman, who was 9-of-16 for 95 yards.

“I need to see the tape,” Fulmer said of his QBs. “I don’t know that it was a fantastic day. Nick Stephens led a couple of long drives. We just need to see the tape. Nothing necessarily displeasing but nothing outstanding either.”

Senior receiver Josh Briscoe was the recipient of Coleman’s best effort, a 48-yarder that highlighted Briscoe’s five catches for 83 yards. Gerald Jones finished with five receptions for 25 yards, while Quintin Hancock added three catches for 26 yards. The afternoon’s rushing leader was redshirt freshman Daryl Vereen with 20 yards on nine tries.

Special teams play was highlighted by sophomore Daniel Lincoln, who made 6-of-7 field goals tries -- the only miss courtesy of an Eric Berry block from 44 yards away. Punting candidate Chad Cunningham had four attempts for a 43-yard average.

On the injury front, head athletic trainer Jason McVeigh reports that both fullback David Holbert and linebacker Nevin McKenzie suffered left knee injuries during the scrimmage that will be evaluated further over the next few days.

“David, bless his heart, has had the hardest time with all the injuries.” Fulmer said. “It was a good clean tough hit, and that’s just a part of football. You hate to see it with anybody but especially a senior that’s fought through what he’s fought through to get back.”