As many of you know on Saturday I was at Tennessee’s spring scrimmage, known as The Orange & White Game. If I remember correctly this was the first time I had been at Neyland Stadium for a game since I watched Travis Henry get carted off the field in a game against Vanderbilt. I went with my friend Jason, who was visiting me from Kansas. Jason seemed pretty blown away by the atmosphere here in Knoxville and in Neyland Stadium. At one point he compared the experience of the spring training game at Tennessee to that of an actual regular season game day at Kansas. Welcome to the SEC.
I have to admit that I was right there with him. It was amazing to really be there. It made me that much more excited for this upcoming fall, and the eight UT home games that it will bring with it. As the Ghost over at 3SIB wrote, it’s hard to gauge how good the team is going to be because: “A.) The defense didn’t throw a lot of blitzes or stunts at the offense, and Eric Berry didn’t play. B.) Kiffin spent a lot of time on the field calling plays and helping line folks up. C.) There could be (and likely will be) some more defections from the current team. D.) We have no idea who the quarterback is going to be. E.) Kiffin said the team only ran “20 percent” of the offense and “10 percent” of the defense and, most importantly, F.) There will be an influx of much-needed talent coming in in August.”
I will do my best to tell you about what I saw however. The biggest and most important thing in my mind is something that I was already quite sure of, but that was really driven on Saturday is that Jonathan Crompton is absolutely not the answer for us at quarterback. He didn’t do anything to impress me. He overthrew receivers, he underthrew receivers, he skipped passes off the turf, he threw passes right at defenders (Rico McCoy can thank him for his interception) and just flat out looked awful. He had a few good passes here and there but nothing that makes me want him taking the first snap when September 5th rolls around.
Based on what I saw from the Orange & White game the man I want under center on opening day vs Western Kentucky is BJ Coleman. He didn’t get to take any of the first team snaps (why, I don’t know) but looked at least impressive, at least in comparison to Crompton. He had an awesome play that I told Bryan I thought should have made Top 10 plays on SportsCenter that night. It was fourth-and-goal from about the 7 yard line (I think) and he got chased out of the pocket, scrambled to his right, juked a defender, then pulled up short of the line of scrimmage and slung a side-arm pass to Quinton Hancock in the endzone for a touchdown. That play right there was enough to sell me on Coleman, but the fact that his whole body of work for the day just seemed head and shoulders above Crompton makes me pray that he wins the starting spot as signal caller.
Hancock also impressed me yesterday, he was awarded at half time as most improved offensive player of the spring and I think he deserved it. Plus he wears the number 87 and I like receivers that wear 87 (see Reggie Wayne). He made some great catches and honestly, on the whole, our wide receiving corp looked good, which I was pleasantly surprised by. I believe it was Brandon Warren that made a spectacular catch on the sideline, hauling in a bobbled (maybe even tipped) pass while falling out of bounds. There were even some pretty impressive catches made during warm-ups. It was good to see players having that much concentration and putting in that kind of effort before the game even actually started.
On the defensive side of the ball, we were without Eric Berry, but I could see why I’ve been hearing all spring that Chris Walker is “unblockable” he was in the backfield on every play. I’m just going to hope that reflects how good he is and not how poorly the offensive tackle was playing. Montori Hughes also had an impressive showing. As Ghost mentioned, Lane Kiffin said after the game that we only ran about 10 percent of the defense so there weren’t a lot of blitzes but the d-line did a good job of penetrating the back field on it’s own, which again I’m hoping isn’t because of our offensive line’s inability to block in pass protection but because our defensive line is just that good.
The o-line did look really good on running plays though, getting a good push and giving the running backs good lanes and holes to get through. There wasn’t a single fumble the entire game, which is a huge sigh of relief because of how many we had last year and the fact that people were talking about how that had been a problem so far this spring. Montario Hardesty, Tauren Poole and Toney Williams all looked really good and when we add Bryce Brown and David Oku to that group it looks like a very impressive back field.
It was hard to judge how our defensive backs looked mainly because of the fact that Eric Berry wasn’t out there with them and also because of how big of a question mark we have at quarterback, but the DBs are the group I am worried the least about mainly because of the fact that Eric Berry will be out there and also because we have so much talent back there. I will say that Art Evans had an impressive showing, so we really should have a great pass defense again this year. Our linebackers also looked good with McCoy leading the way, who forced got a gift wrapped interception from Crompton for the only turnover of the game.
The new non-Colquitt punters looked good, which was another pleasant surprise and so did Daniel Lincoln, the kicker, who was hitting 50+ yard field goals in warm-ups.
Like I said, it’s hard to judge how the team looked but at the very least it was a lot of fun to go for the experience and to see the new coaching staff in action. Lane Kiffin was in the offensive huddle on almost every play. Monte Kiffin was pacing the sideline and pulling players aside to give them pointers, and I saw Coach O (Ed Orgeron) rip into one of the defensive linemen for not tackling the quarterback on the previous play. Speaking of which, I love the lack of green jerseys. I think it’s good to have full contact and let the players get used to taking a good hit so they aren’t so blind-sided by it when the actual season rolls around.
On a side note there were a few former and future (and hopefully future) Vols players in attendance as well. Al Wilson and Darwin Walker were both roaming the defensive side lines as Alum and I’m sure there were some others that I didn’t see. Nu’Keese Richardson and Marsalis Teague were there as well from the 09 class; again I’m sure I missed some. Plus there was a whole section roped off right next to where I was sitting that was filled with other recruits that I’m assuming are mainly 2010 recruits that we’re hoping to sign.
In other Tennessee Football news that isn’t really new news anymore, but we have yet to mention on our site, the Vols got a few more commitments this past week. Mike Rozier, a minor league baseball pitcher will be joining suiting up in Orange as a quarterback this fall and Risean Broussard, a big defensive tackle from Louisiana, gave a verbal commitment to be part of our 2010 recruiting class.
As always, feel free to share your thoughts in a comment.
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