KNOXVILLE, Tenn - In the Vols’ second scrimmage of fall camp, the coaches decided to throw everything they could at the team.
There were some base-offense drills, two-minute drills, four-minute drills and overtime.
The coaches also decided to see what would happen if starting quarterback Tyler Bray went down with an injury and threw Justin Worley into the starting role.
“This was different than the first scrimmage because we kind of mixed some things up and did some situations,” Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley said. “We gave Justin Worley a lot of snaps, gave him some snaps with the ones just to do that and mixed up a couple of the offensive line. With the ones we were working on contingency plans.
“The one thing that I’ve learned over the years is that you better have two quarterbacks going into the season. I think we’ve got two pretty good quarterbacks heading into the season and I just felt like Justin needed to have a heavy day out there, so he got it.”
Although the change didn’t come with its usual element of sudden surprise, it was still a good dress rehearsal for the UT backup.
“That was just kind of a thing they threw out there trying to manufacture another different situation that could happen,” Worley said. “We did [know it was coming] and Tyler said ‘don’t jinx me with this one.’ They told us before and everybody reacted pretty well.”
Bray thought that his understudy performed well ‘under the circumstances’.
“Worley played great today,” Bray said. “He threw for 208 yards or something. He had a great day. The No. 1 offense started a little slow, but once the scrimmage started picking up we played great.”
Bray actually underestimated Worley’s total for the night as he finished 15-for-28 for 229 yards and two touchdowns, an effort that Dooley was happy with.
“We have a real comfort level [with Justin], but I thought at some point he needed to get in there with the ones just so those guys could feel his command a little bit,” Dooley said. “He’s done a great job, he’s made a lot of improvement, he’s moving in the pocket better, he’s making the throws he needs to make and he’s putting the ball in those guys hands who can make some big plays.
With all of the different situations thrown at the quarterbacks, the second scrimmage of the year, held under the lights at Neyland Stadium, felt a lot like a real game.
“You have to be on top of everything,” Worley said. “You’re going from two-minute to four-minute to overtime to just running our base offense. You have to be on top of everything. Staying sharp and being able to lead in those situations is really key to the position that me and Tyler (Bray) play.
“I think we reacted well. Everybody was excited on the sidelines going out for each situation. We knew what we had to do and we tried to execute as best as we could.”
And execute they did, with the offense generating eight plays over 20 yards, including seven through the air. The longest strike of the day was a 72-yard gain by Devrin Young as he snagged a short pass on a checkdown from Worley and outran four defenders down the left sideline for his first of two touchdowns in the scrimmage.
Worley started out on fire, completing his first four passes of the day, including one for 25 yards to Drae Bowles and a 16-yard touchdown strike to a wide open Quenshaun Watson in the right side of the endzone.
Bray, meanwhile, completed passes of 32 and 31 yards to Cordarrelle Patterson and Da’Rick Rogers, respectively, and freshman Nathan Peterman had a 32-yard pass of his own to Alex Ellis.
“I felt like the offense was explosive, had a lot of explosive plays and scored a lot of points,” Dooley said. “We did a good job there. We have to do a little better job in the back-end. I think there were a lot of breakdowns in communication in the back-end that led to a lot of the big plays. It is going to be important for us to shape down what we do so we don’t make many mistakes.”
Despite all of the big offensive gains, it was actually a big play on the defensive side of the ball that ended the scrimmage.
After Bray completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Patterson in the first period of the planned overtime session, safety Byron Moore brought the second period to a close by picking off a pass from Worley in the end zone.
The interception was his second of the game as he and A.J. Johnson, who had a team-high 12 tackles and a forced fumble, led a UT defense that seemed to get better as the evening wore on.
The Vols were obviously not happy to see a number of miscues on defense throughout the night, but have a pretty good idea what caused them and how to fix them.
“We have a lot in on defense and we knew we’d be at this point where we have to go figure out what we are good at and tighten it down,” Dooley said. “I think that will help our guys play better and faster.”
HEAD COACH DEREK DOOLEY
(On how the coaches evaluate the scrimmage)
We just have to go watch the film to see what the reasons are. Is it because of a talent differential? Is it because we’re not playing our defense like we need to? I think each play you kind of say, well that was a great play and was tough to defend or we didn’t do anything right on that play, it’s on us.
(On Worley’s command and poise)
“It was good and that was what I wanted to see. That’s why we put him in there for so much because we need to go into this season where he has a little confidence and feels like he can go take command of the offense if he needs to. I think the guys on the offense feel like hopefully we won’t miss a beat if he is in there.”
(On the team’s depth)
“We have a little more depth at quarterback and we were able to play [Alex] Bullard and Marcus Jackson with the ones mixed in there so they got a little bit of work. So there is depth at some positions, but there’s not at a lot. We’re thin at some other areas that I am really concerned about. I’m really concerned about inside backer, really concerned about tight end. Those are real concerns.”
(On Rajion Neal)
“He’s been real consistent in how he has performed this camp. He had a big play running the ball. He didn’t get a lot of touches. I think he is a lot tougher than he has been and he still has some improvement to make.”
(On the linebacking corp)
“It’s fair to say if Herman [Lathers] is healthy, that is one of our strength. That is the strength of our defense because Curt [Maggitt], Herman and A.J. have all proven that they can play good, winning football in this league. No other position has that, in fact on the whole team. Nobody else has gone 12 games and proven they can be good. That’s a strength but we need to keep them healthy because depth is a real concern.”
(On A.J. Johnson)
“He’s a real steady hand in there on the inside and he’s a good football player.”
SOPHOMORE QB JUSTIN WORLEY
(On his performance)
“Some of the coaches were saying we came out flat, but I tried to kind of rally the No. 2 offense and we got a few good drives going and it showed on the field.”
JUNIOR QB TYLER BRAY
(On the running game)
“The line has been blocking great. They’re really starting to click right now and the running backs are really starting to run.”
(On the differences between the two scrimmages)
“It was totally different. We did a lot of situational stuff like if I went down and Worley came in as a starter. We just kind of switched everything around just to see how people would react. They also took a couple guards out just to fill in people in case of injuries.”
(On preparing for the two- and four-minute drill)
“It’s the same. We’ve got a good tempo going. We’re going to keep trying to push the ball down the field and the running backs are going to keep trying to run the ball.”
SOPHOMORE LB CURT MAGGITT
(On Defensive Coordinator Sal Sunseri)
“I love Coach Sal. He is real intense, he wants the best out of you and he is going to push you until you get to the edge and even more. He wants the best out of you and wants you to get better. You remember and try not to make that same mistake again. When you mess up, everybody knows you messed up. He will let you know.”
SOPHOMORE LB A.J. JOHNSON
(On the defensive line in today’s scrimmage)
“I believe our defensive line played their gaps better than the last scrimmage [today] and they filled their gaps better - holding the edges better, [helping the run game].”
SOPHOMORE OL ANTONIO RICHARDSON
(On preparing for the season opener)
“Mentally I feel great; physically I am ready to get my body back to where it needs to be for the first game. We have been grinding and I feel like I have taken a lot of big steps, the O line has taken a lot of big steps and our confidence is up. I feel like we could play against anybody, and I say that with confidence.”
(On Justin Worley)
“Worley, compared to last year, he played with a lot of confidence. When he came in, I didn’t even know that he was in. He came out there and took over. The quarterback commands the offense so when they are confident and ready to go, we’re ready to go. Last year, he started two games I believe in the SEC and against MTSU. He has the experience and if he comes in there I am confident with him being behind me.”
JUNIOR DL MAURICE COUCH
(On the difference between the first and second scrimmages)
“I think we have accomplished getting lined up. We did well with substitution. Our first scrimmage we didn’t do so well with the substitutions so we didn’t have as many errors with that today. It went real well we had some mistakes in there but it is better than what we did in the first scrimmage.”
(On if he has ever played with someone the size of Daniel McCullers)
“Not at all. I think it is good though, I was telling coach earlier, I give everything I got to get three guys pushed back and he makes it look easy. It helps out a lot because it keeps the offensive line off the linebackers and creates one-on-one situations for the ends.”
(On playing without Herman Lathers)
“It was ok [without Herman Lathers] but it was different. We are so used to Herm giving us the calls ASAP, there were younger guys playing in his position, it was different.”
RS JR DB BYRON MOORE
(On adjusting to the new defense)
“It gets tough at times seeing so much new information coming at you. You just have to take it all in and try and stick most of it in there and clean up the rest later on. The coaches do a good job in our meetings installing it and making sure it is clear so when we get out to the field we can go out and execute.”
(On the communication in the secondary)
“It starts with the safeties. We have to make sure the corners get the calls and the linebackers know which safety is rotating down. It is mostly on the safeties but it is an all-around group effort.”
(On the scrimmage)
“It was a real situational type of deal. The defense knew it and we knew it so it was a lot of loading the box. It was real physical today. I think what the coaches wanted to see and what they were focusing on was who can be that short-yardage back, that every-down back that can go between the tackles.”
(On the importance of that element of his game)
“Those are the runs that win games. The short-yardage, four-minute, those are the tough yards that everybody needs and some people don’t want to stay in there. But those are the most important yards. It was big and that was something they (the coaches) needed to see.”
(On comparing his performance to the first scrimmage)
“I feel that it’s still pretty much the same as far as being consistent. Today was a more situational day so the defense kind of loaded the box and prepared for the run a little bit more. Still, today was overall a productive day.”
(On the team’s offensive confidence)
“Yes sir, definitely. These guys come out and work every day and we stay up on these coaches. These guys have that confidence and I guess you can say that gel from playing together for a while. I think everybody is still riding high, ready to keep working and stay up on these coaches.”
Worley 15-28-229 2 TD, 2 INT; Bray 5-12-80 1 TD; Peterman 5-8-81
Neal 8-47, 25 Long; Young 5-21 TD, 17 Long; Summerhill 3-20, 12 Long; Lane 7-19 TD, 16 Long; Hill 2-11, 6 Long; J. King 1-3; Watson 4- minus 2, 2 Long
Bowles 6-91, 25 Long; Young 1-72 TD, 72 Long; Patterson 2-42, 32 Long; Ellis 3-39, 32 Long; Carter 3-34, 21 Long; D. Rogers 1-31 TD, 31 Long; Watson 2-30 TD, 16 Long, Page 1-13; Downs 2-12, 7 Long; Drummer 1-10; Hunter 1-6; Bartholomew 1-0
Darr 4-159-39.8, 48 Long; Palardy 3-123-41.3, 47 Long
Palardy 33 Good, 41 Good; Bullock 28 WR
Johnson 3-9-12, Waggner 3-3-6, Coleman 2-3-5, G. King 2-3-5, McCullers 0-4-4, Maggitt 2-1-3, Crump 0-3-3, Toney 2-0-2, Arnold 1-1-2, Dallas 1-1-2, Gray 1-1-2, Miller 1-1-2, Randolph 1-1-2, Sentimore 1-1-2, J. Smith 1-1-2, Bohannon 0-2-2, Brewer 0-2-2, Fowlkes 0-2-2, Gordon 0-2-2, Lewis 0-2-2, O'Brien 0-2-2, Propst 0-2-2, Williams 0-2-2, Bonner 0-1-1, Clark 0-1-1, Fugate 0-1-1, Oliver 1-0-1, Orta 1-0-1, Sapp 0-1-1, Saulsberry 0-1-1, Taylor 0-1-1, Teague 0-1-1, Wilks 0-1-1
Tackles for Loss
Sentimore 1.5-6, Maggitt 1.5-4, Smith 1-5, Miller 1-1
Smith 1-5, Maggitt 1-1
Pass Break Ups
Smith 1, Gordon 1, Waggner 1, Moore 1, Oliver 1
Smith 2, Maggitt 1, Walls 1, Bohannon 1, Miller 1