KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT/SUBMITTED) -- Junior tailback Rajion Neal ran for 100 yards on 15 carries (6.7 ypc), while several of his runs were pivotal in setting up touchdowns during the Vols' first scrimmage of the spring at Neyland Stadium on Friday.
Coming out with a high-tempo offense, Tennessee's offense moved the ball well down the field on its first two drives, one led by Tyler Bray and the other by Justin Worley.
Nothing materialized, however, as the Vols' defense held tough in both situations and throughout the "first-half," including Brian Randolph's interception that ended the UT's first drive.
Bray threw for 142 yards and a touchdown on 13 completions, while Worley finished with 110 yards on 11 connections.
Back-to-back runs of six and nine yards by Neal set up Tennessee's first trip to the end zone on a four-play drive that the Vols started from the 20-yard line in a red zone situation. On the next play, Bray connected with senior tight end Mychal Rivera from five yards out. Randolph showed up again, blocking the extra point.
Rivera was one of three Vols to haul in a team-best four receptions, joining sophomore wide receiver Jacob Carterand freshman Cody Blanc.
Tennessee's first-half defense otherwise was stout, including big plays from multiple Vols. All three of Steven Fowlkes' tackles were for loss, including a team-high pair of sacks. Jacques Smith was active with his hands, breaking up a pair of passes at the line of scrimmage, while Rod Wilks tied him for the team-lead.
Bray opened up the second-half, leading a 70-yard drive that cumulated in a 5-yard touchdown run from sophomore tailback Devrin Young, who was also impressive with eight carries for 60 yards (7.5 ypc) and a team-high 59 receiving yards on three catches.
Just after Neal's longest run of the day, a 23-yarder, Bray checked down to Young, who displayed his exceptional speed and shiftiness.
Causing the offensive sideline to erupt, Young juked one defender and received a big block from wide receiverVincent Dallas on another to turn a short pass into a 35-yard gain, the longest Tennessee reception of the day. Young took it up the middle for his lone TD on the next play.
The Vols scored their final touchdown of the day on another red zone situation, led this time by Worley. Much like the Vols' first TD, Neal was critical in making it look easy. His 13-yard scamper to the 2-yard line set up a 1-yard score from sophomore tailback Marlin Lane.
Placekickers Derrick Brodus and Michael Palardy added field goals. Palardy booted the longest of the day from 37 yards out, while Brodus had a 35-yarder.
In two-minute drills, both quarterbacks came out firing.
Starting from their own 25-yard line, Bray completed four consecutive passes - his longest streak of the day - to lead the Vols deep into the defense's territory, three of which were 11 yards or more.
Tennessee got inside the 5-yard line via a 16-yard completion to Rivera and an 11-yard run from Bray, but failed to score after Wilks had a breakup on fourth down.
Also starting on his own 25-yard line, Worley completed his first five passes of the drive, including a pair to Blanc.
His longest receptions in the hurry-up setting were to Carter (18 yards) and Cam Clear (16 yards), but the Vols' defense protected the end zone.
Linebacker Greg King led the Tennessee defense with seven tackles, while linebacker A.J. Johnson and defensive back Marsalis Teague each had six.
Tennessee will scrimmage once again next Saturday, April 14, leading up to the DISH Orange & White Game on April 21. Admission for the annual Tennessee spring game is free and kickoff is slated for 2:30 p.m.
HEAD COACH DEREK DOOLEY
(On special teams)
"We worked all phases today. We aren't really ready on kickoff and kickoff return, we really did a practice there. We still have a long way to go on special teams. Our snapper is hurt right now, so he is out, so that is affecting us a little on the punt game. We have new holders, we lost all our holders, so the mechanics on field goals, those kind of things. We just need to keep polishing it up."
(On Michael Palardy)
"He kicked the ball off pretty well today. I have to look at the film but it was popping off his leg better than I have seen. That was a good encouraging thing. He is enjoying the moving it up, he is lobbying for the forty now."
(On Herman Lathers)
"Good presence out there, he is active, he is physical. He has some leadership qualities. It is so important that guys don't get hurt. It is important that you are deep and talented so that if a guy does get hurt it doesn't affect you, but we need Herman to stay healthy because he is a good presence out there."
(On the secondary)
"It is still a collection. We have to keep evaluating. I am just excited that we are demanding a little more aggressiveness back there and making the offense work for it. We are going to challenge them and get our hands on the wideouts. To do that you have to be extremely disciplined in your technique, because if you have a breakdown it could be a big play."
(On the left side of the offensive line)
"It was good. I think it is a pretty good combination. Of course, Antonio, a lot of the freshman stuff showed today, with some penalties. You get emotional when things aren't going right, so that is just going to take time to build continuity. I think we made a good move there. I think it is going to pay off."
(On Antonio Richardson)
"He has a lot of leadership skills. He has that dynamic personality. He is hard not to like. He is just one of those types."
(On the maturity level of the offense)
"Very much. The maturity level of these guys is so much better. Tyler is not in a tank because his stats aren't great. Da'Rick's not in a tank because he didn't catch a ball today. They are working on their game. They are working for the team. That is a real sign of maturity. Now, in a game, it probably won't be like that but you have to start in practice."
JUNIOR QB TYLER BRAY
(On approaching spring practices differently this season)
“I have started to look at it from a coaching standpoint. Last year I was a player and wanted to get out of here. I was tired and all of that. I have realized that we actually do need to work on stuff in the areas we need improvement on.”
(On helping the younger quarterbacks)
“I get along with all the quarterbacks. I am just trying to help them. I know I got help when I was an early enrollee, so I just try to do the same.”
(On the offensive line)
“The center is always the same, so I am good with that. They are moving bodies in and out. That’s something we need to work on, but the line is getting really comfortable right now and they are starting to gel.”
JUNIOR PK MICHAEL PALARDY
(On the importance of flexibility as a kicker)
“It’s huge. Being tight for a kicker is not what you want to do, especially in your lower body. I’ve been working a lot in the offseason with that and incorporating that with our conditioning workouts. It’s a huge part of my game.”
(On if he feels better this spring as compared to the end of last season)
“Absolutely. I know coming into this year, being young is not an excuse anymore. I’ve got come out here and prove to everybody and show them what I can do.”
SOPHOMORE OL ANTONIO RICHARDSON
(On what went right for the offense)
“Just energy. Just playing hard and playing for each other. It wasn’t a whole lot of rah-rah-rah out there but we knew what we had to do and just came out and tried to execute. We could have done a lot of things better, but you get better over time.”
(On learning different techniques)
“Coach (Sam) Pittman has been in here since January, so we have been working really hard. Last year I didn’t play that much so it was easy to just learn the new coaching style. It has already become a part of my playing style. It wasn’t that big of a change.”
JUNIOR DL MARLON WALLS
(On if the defense lined up right today)
“No, we had a lot of mental breakdowns. We had a couple off sides. That is totally unacceptable and that will get you beat in this league. We just have to get better. Today, we took a step forward but we also took a step back. So I think we are back at the same spot. We just have to get better.”
(On what Coach Sunseri told them after the scrimmage)
“Just like I just said. Everything we gave the offense, and everything the offense did, big plays wise, we gave it to them. As a defense we have to get better. We have to know what we have do, how to do it and why we are doing it. We will get better at it. I am pretty sure Sal, this next week, is going to emphasize that.”
(On team energy)
“It was good first half. Just like last year, we have to get better in the second half. We have to be mentally tougher. That is something we want to get right. As you saw last year that is what happened to us. We were tough first half, and then we came back second half and I guess we got lethargic and fell back. That is something that can’t happen.”
TD – Mychal Rivera 5-yard rec from Tyler Bray (Michael Palardy PAT miss) – 6-0
TD – Devrin Young 5-yard rush (No PAT) – 12-0
TD – Marlin Lane 1-yard rush (No PAT) – 18-0
FG – Derrick Brodus 35-yard field goal – 21-0
FG – Michael Palardy 37-yard field goal – 24-0
Tyler Bray – 13-32-1, 142 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Justin Worley – 11-20-1, 110 yards
Nathan Peterman – 4-8-0, 13 yards
Tyler Page – 2-2-0, 11 yards
Rajion Neal – 15-100-23
Alden Hill – 9-39-15
Devrin Young – 8-60-24, TD
Marlin Lane – 7-8-7, TD
Tom Smith – 6-18-5
Jaron Toney – 5-17-6
Deanthonie Summerhill – 2-16-6
Mychal Rivera – 4-45-16, TD
Jacob Carter – 4-38-18
Cody Blanc – 4-27-12
Devrin Young – 3-59-35
Zach Rogers – 3-35-18
Cam Clear – 2-20-16
Rajion Neal – 2-16-11
Alex Ellis – 2-11-6
Marlin Lane – 2-7-8
Brendan Downs – 1-5-5
Tyler Drummer – 1-4-4
Dakota Summers – 1-4-4
Jaron Toney – 1-4-4
Matt Darr – 4-166-41.5-50
Michael Palardy – 2-82-41.0-42
Michael Palardy – 1-2 (32 blocked, 37 good)
Derrick Brodus – 1-2 (33 wide left, 35 good)
Greg King – 4-3-7
AJ Johnson – 4-2-6, 1 TFL
Marsalis Teague – 3-3-6, PBU
Tino Thomas – 4-1-5
Willie Bohannon – 1-4-5
Byron Moore – 3-2-5, 1 TFL
Herman Lathers – 4-0-4, PBU
Rod Wilks – 3-1-4, 2 PBU
John Propst – 0-4-4
Raiques Crump – 3-0-3, FF
Steven Fowlkes – 2-1-3, 1.5 sacks-4 yards, 3 TFLs
Logan Honeycutt – 1-2-3
Max Arnold – 1-2-3
Eric Gordon – 2-1-3, FR, 1 sack-6 yards
Brian Randolph – 2-1-3, INT, FG block
Izauea Lanier – 2-1-3
Jordan Williams – 1-2-3, PBU
Justin Coleman – 1-2-3, PBU
Corey Alexander – 0-3-3
Tyrin Fairman – 2-0-2
Channing Fugate – 1-1-2
Dontavis Sapp – 0-2-2, 0.5 sack-3 yards
Nigel Mitchell-Thornton – 0-2-2, TFL
Joseph Ayres – 1-0-1
Jacques Smith – 0-1-1, 2 PBU
Allan Carson – 1-0-1, FR
Darrington Sentimore – 1-0-1
Marlon Walls – 0-1-1, TFL
Trent Taylor – 0-1-1, TFL
Gregory Clark – 0-1-1
Michael Cantwell – 0-0-0, PBU
Steven Fowlkes – 1.5-4 yards
Eric Gordon – 1-6 yards
Dontavis Sapp – 0.5-3 yards
Brian Randolph – 1-8 yards
Allan Carson – Fumble recovery
Eric Gordon – Fumble recovery
Raiques Crump – Forced fumble