In his five starts as a freshman, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray led an `explosive' offense that saw an average time of possession of 2:10 on 27 scoring drives, including 14 that took less than two minutes. During their intrasquad scrimmage Saturday at Neyland Stadium, the Vols showed the potential for offensive efficiency as well.
"He was a lot better and we helped him a little bit too," head coach Derek Dooley said of Bray. "We're starting to get a little understanding of when we're pushing too much because we don't want to make him uncomfortable. He looked in command. He managed the offense well. This was different than what we've done in the past. It was an efficient offense, which is not what we've been. We've been more explosive. We like the efficiency. Nine plays, eight, seven, eight, which means we're getting in third-and-makeable. We're making them. But then we have to hit those shots when we have those opportunities and that's what we were lacking today."
The Vols will still attempt to use their versatile options to continue their success in scoring quickly. And that starts with UT's sophomore quarterback.
"I wish Tyler would get a little more consistent in his approach," Dooley said. "He shouldn't have to have a real bad day to get him to want to come in and take it more seriously and that comes with maturity. We were a little off in the throwing game. I say a little off. We missed a lot of big plays. We're going to try to have a big-play, explosive pass game. The sync was a little bit off. I didn't think anybody was bad. It's just a matter of that chemistry that's going to come with a new receiving corp. I thought Tyler had a good demeanor today."
Bray finished the day 12-of-26 for 132 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His TD toss wrapped up his second drive of the evening, a 4-yarder to sophomore wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers. The eight-play, 70-yard march was highlighted by a 16-yard reception from sophomore wideout Justin Hunter and a 15-yard rush by freshman tailback Tom Smith.
Hunter and Smith led the Vols in receiving and rushing, respectively. Hunter hauled in four passes for 69 yards, including Bray's longest completion of the day, a 21-yarder. Smith carried the ball 10 times for 80 yards, including a UT scrimmage-best 22-yard scamper that set up the Vols' only other touchdown of the night. Following Smith's run, senior quarterback Matt Simms found sophomore wide receiver Matt Milton in the end zone from 18 yards out.
UT was a perfect 5-for-5 on field goals, with sophomore placekicker Michael Palardy responsible for four. Palardy displayed range, connecting on a 52-yarder. His 33-yard field goal wrapped up an impressive and lengthy drive that saw freshman tailback Marlin Lane break a 13-yard run and catch a 12-yard pass on third down. Bray also found Hunter for 18 yards on an earlier third down during that possession.
"We had a lot of improvement in some areas and we have a lot of work to do in others," Dooley said. "Just picking up from last scrimmage, I felt like the tempo was much better by the offense. The administration was much better. We had a nice throw going. We had a lot of good drives. The problem was we only finished one of them off. We did a great job kicking field goals today."
Tennessee's defense forced four turnovers, including three interceptions. Senior defensive back Art Evans claimed UT's first of the day, returning an INT 29 yards. Nigel Mitchell-Thornton and Naz Oliver were responsible for the Vols' two other INTs.
On a reception that would've set the Vols' offense up inside the red zone, sophomore linebacker John Propst stripped the ball and junior defensive back Rod Wilks recovered the fumble. Wilks had a strong day in the UT secondary, adding five tackles, one for loss and a pass breakup.
Freshman Curt Maggitt was disruptive and caused problems for the UT offense throughout the day. Four-and-a-half of his six tackles were in the backfield, leading to a loss of 17 yards. One of his team-high two sacks came on a "late game" situation drive.
The Vols applied pressure on the quarterbacks with four sacks and five QB hurries.
Sophomore defensive back Brent Brewer led Tennessee with seven tackles.
With Tennessee's two-deep tailbacks Tauren Poole and Rajion Neal sidelined with minor injuries Saturday, Lane and Smith took advantage of their opportunities to shine. Applying different rushing styles, the duo provided a one-two punch that combined for 122 yards on 19 carries (6.4 YPC).
"Marlin (Lane) is a little more elusive kind of guy, change of direction," Dooley said. "Tom is a little more of a hammer-knocker. He's a physical guy. He came from a Wing-T offense. They just teach you in the Wing-T to run straight and you don't even look up. You just run. Whoever hits you, you just go. We have to teach them that if there's a defender there, you're allowed to do a little (juke) and get on the edge. He hasn't learned that yet, but he hits and he pushes forward.
"I think they're going to complement each other very well. I'm going to tell you what they both have. They're tough. And that's a starting point at running back."
They also have attention of the individual handing them the ball.
"Marlin (Lane), Tom (Smith) and Jaron Toney came out and ran the ball great today, and caught the ball out of the backfield," Bray said. "These young guys came in and are producing right away. They're not acting like freshmen and that is good to see."
TAKING IT UPON THEMSELVES
After a disappointing scrimmage Tuesday, Bray spoke with members of his offense and they all agreed that they wanted to come out with a much better performance Saturday evening. And they did.
"As an offense after (the first scrimmage) we talked," Bray said. "I hung out with Da'Rick (Rogers), Justin (Hunter) and Matt (Milton) afterwards and we talked about how we have to come out the next scrimmage and show them that we can actually play and we are ready to go for the season, because that last scrimmage wasn't us."
The Vols hope Saturday was more of an indicator of what to expect in 2011 as they showed marked improvement.
"(Today) was a lot better than the last scrimmage. The receivers came out and ran great routes and the offensive line blocked terrific today. It was great. The offense executed well.
"I thought we came out today like it was an actual game. The tempo was up. I didn't even have to look at the play clock the first couple of series because we were in and out of the huddle so fast. The line was hustling and the wide receivers were hustling, so it was fast."
Da'Rick Rogers 4 pass from Tyler Bray. Palardy kick.
Chip Rhome 29 field goal.
Michael Palardy 33 field goal.
Michael Palardy 52 field goal.
Matt Milton 18 pass from Matt Simms. (No PAT)
Chip Rhome 35 field goal.
Michael Palardy 36 field goal.
Rushing (No.-Yds.-TD-Long) - Tom Smith 10-80-0-22; Marlin Lane 9-42-0-13; Jaron Toney 11-25-0-9; Deanthonie Summerhill 5-30-0-20; Reggie Juin 3-26-0-19; Matt Simms 3-8-0-18; Nash Nance 1-5-0-5; Justin Worley 1-2-0-2; Tyler Bray 5-(-1)-0-5.
Passing (Att.-Comp.-Int.-Yds.-TD-Long) - Tyler Bray 26-12-1-132-1-21; Matt Simms 13-6-0-62-1-20; Justin Worley 8-3-2-56-0-25; Nash Nance 2-0-0-0-0-0.
Receiving (No.-Yds.-TD-Long) - Justin Hunter 4-69-0-21; Matt Milton 4-63-1-20; Marlin Lane 3-15-0-12; DeAnthony Arnett 2-30-0-25; Da'Rick Rogers 2-19-1-15; Tom Smith 2-2-0-6; Vincent Dallas 1-22-0-22; Michael Rivera 1-9-0-9; Cory Eichholtz 1-9-0-9; Ben Bartholomew 1-2-0-2.
Defense - Brent Brewer 7 tackles; Curt Maggitt 6 tackles, 4.5 TFL (-17), 2 sacks (-12); Rod Wilks 5 tackles, 1 TFL (-2), 1 fumble recovery, 1 PBU; A.J. Johnson 5 tackles, 0.5 TFL (0); Marsalis Teague 5 tackles; Izauea Lanier 4 tackles; Brian Randolph 4 tackles; John Propst 3 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 QB hurry; Greg King 2 tackles, 1 TFL (-4); Austin Johnson 3 tackles, 1 QB hurry; Eric Gordon 3 tackles; Robert Nelson 3 tackles; Shane Reveiz 3 tackles; Joseph Ayres 2 tackles, 1.5 TFL (-2); Naz Oliver 2 tackles, 1 interception (0 yards); Janzen Jackson 2 tackles; Willie Bohannon 1 tackle, 1 sack (-4), 1 QB hurry; Steven Fowlkes 1 tackle, 1 sack (-6), 1 QB hurry; Justin Coleman 1 tackle, 2 PBU; Prentiss Waggner 1 tackle, 1 PBU; Gregory Clark 1 tackle, 1 QB hurry; Jacques Smith 1 tackle, 1 QB hurry; Jordan Williams 1 tackle, 0.5 TFL (-1); Art Evans 1 interception (29 yards); Nigel Mitchell-Thornton 1 interception (0 yards); Nick Branum 1 tackle; Allan Carson 1 tackle; Maurice Couch 1 tackle; Vincent Dallas 1 tackle; Daniel Hood 1 tackle; Arthur Jeffery 1 tackle; Ben Martin 1 tackle; Byron Moore 1 tackle; Daryl Vereen 1 tackle; Marlon Walls 1 tackle.
Field Goals - Michael Palardy 3-of-3, long 52; Chip Rhome 2-of-2, long 35.
Punting (No.-Avg.-Long) - Matt Darr 5-37.2-43; Michael Palardy 3-36.0-45.