Defense shines early in Vols second scrimmage of camp

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (SUBMITTED) -- Tennessee’s defense played with determination but managed no more than a split decision during the Vols’ second scrimmage of fall camp Saturday night.

“I was pleased with the energy, attitude and competitive fire the team came out with today,” head coach Derek Dooley said. “It was more what I expected from a competitive standpoint, so that was a good sign.

“I thought the defense came a lot better prepared mentally. They competed harder and really put it to the offense early, but then they gave up a few big plays.”

The offense rebounded toward the end of the 135-play scrimmage, especially in Dooley’s late-game situations that saw quarterbacks Tyler Bray and Matt Simms connect on big plays.

Bray finished 16-of-28 passing for 246 yards, while Simms was 11-of-22 for 235 yards and three touchdowns. One of those scoring tosses was for 64 yards to freshman Justin Hunter, who caught five balls for 128 yards in a standout performance.

“Justin Hunter made some incredible plays,” Dooley said. “He’s showing he’s got a lot of ability, and I was really pleased to see him step up and make some good plays.”

David Oku rushed seven times for 65 yards and caught a 34-yard swing pass that he took for a touchdown. Tauren Poole rushed eight times for 44 yards while adding three receptions for 49 more yards and a score.

Most of the offensive firepower came during the latter portion of the evening.

“We played two different game situations with about 3:43 on the clock and it was a one-point game,” Dooley said. “We played it to zero (on the clock) in both situations and made some good plays on offense during that.”

Defensively, linebacker Daryl Vereen led the way with seven stops including three behind the line of scrimmage. LaMarcus Thompson had five tackles and Herman Lathers four from the linebacker position. Down linemen Montori Hughes and Malik Jackson combined for three sacks.

Freshman Corey Miller was all over the place from his defensive end slot, finishing with a sack, a quarterback hurry, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal attempt.

For the second scrimmage in a row, the Vols lost just one lost fumble and threw no interceptions.

“The offense is protecting it well and that’s going to be key for us,” Dooley said. “But we need to get some (turnovers) on defense. We got some early in camp but we’ve kind of lost that.

“We missed a lot of tackles but we made some big plays on offense. The quarterbacks played pretty well. Tyler’s biggest issue right now is just administering the offense -- getting the play from the sideline, getting it in the huddle, getting the right formation. That’s just going to come with experience.

“In the area that I wanted (improvement) we definitely did, and that’s just coming to play. We played hard and competed. We’ve got a lot to work on. There’s a lot of freshman stuff out there, a lot of missed tackles in space, which is concerning.”

Two other freshmen receivers, Da’Rick Rogers and Matt Milton, made plays of note. Rogers caught five passes for 63 yards while Milton’s only reception was a 66-yard catch and run that just missed reaching the end zone.

Among the veterans, Zach Rogers caught four passes for 49 yards and Denarius Moore 2 for 20.

Dooley said the plan for this week is correcting Saturday night’s miscues.

“We make a lot of mistakes at the end of the game -- losing our cool, penalties. We’re not a very situationally-smart team right now. So this next week, we’re going to do a lot of situation-type work and try to get them to understand how to play at the end of the game.”

Tennessee Preseason Scrimmage No. 2
Rushing Leaders

Att. Yds. TD Long

Poole 8 44 0 25
Neal 11 6 1 14
Jones 1 33 0 33
Oku 7 65 0 23
Williams 9 4 1 4

Passing Leaders
Comp-Att. Yards TD Long

Simms 11-22 235 3 64
Bray 16-28 246 0 66

Receiving Leaders

No. Yards TD Long

Hunter 5 128 1 64
D. Rogers 5 63 0 34
Z. Rogers 4 49 0 20
Poole 3 49 1 20
Neal 3 38 0 18
Moore 2 20 0 10
Milton 1 66 0 66
Oku 1 34 1 34

Defensive Leaders

Vereen 7 tackles; 2 TFL (-11), 1 sack (-7)
L. Thompson 5 tackles, 1 TFL (-4)
Lathers 4 tackles; 1 sack (-6)
Wolf 4 tackles; 3 TFL (-1, -5, -1)
M. Jackson 3 tackles; 1 sack (-5); 1 TFL (-1)
A. Johnson 3 tackles; 1 fumble recovery (0)
Hughes 2 tackles; 2 sacks (-5, -6)
Miller 1 tackle; 1 sack (-7); 1 QB hurry; 1 forced fumble; 1 block

Special Teams
Field Goals
Lincoln 2-4 Miss 41, Miss 37, Make 30, Make 25
Palardy 1-4 Make 39, Miss 31, Block 32, Miss 47

No. Yards Long Av.
Cunningham 3 102 39 34.0
Darr 3 98 36 32.7
Palardy 2 86 52 43

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