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April 6, 2013

Scrimmage 2: Nuts and Bolts

Tennessee's spring camp is now 60 percent finished following the Vols' ninth practice and second major intrasquad scrimmage Saturday morning and afternoon inside Neyland Stadium.

On offense, starters were: Justin Worley, Rajion Neal, Brendan Downs, Pig Howard, Cody Blanc, Jason Croom, and left to right on the offensive line, Alex Bullard, Marcus Jackson, James Stone, Zach Fulton and Ja'Wuan James.

Following some special teams work at the outset, during which Vincent Dallas was banged up on the opening kickoff coverage unit, the Vols' offense took over in a situational setting at midfield. Both the first- and second-team units failed to strike in their initial possessions, though the second grouping with Nathan Peterman at the helm picked up one first down to allow a field goal attempt that narrowly missed to the right from Michael Palardy with the Vols' second-team field goal unit.

On its second opportunity, the top offense with Justin Worley at quarterback marched efficiently downfield. Worley had a couple of key pass plays to Alton 'Pig' Howard, and Marlin Lane handed off to Devrin Young on a reverse that covered nearly 20 yards. Down at the 3, Lane cleaned up the drive and scored moments later.

The second-team offense then similarly got untracked, with Peterman hitting Drae Bowles on a screen pass that covered 30-35 yards down into the orange zone. Alden Hill rushed straight up the gut for a touchdown moments later.

Focusing then on punting, Palardy was extremely effective. Palardy's first three punts carried 50, 52 and 49 yards. Matt Darr continued to have an inconsistent spring.

Jones then placed both offensive units in a tough spot, backing them up to their 2-yard lines and saying the goal was simply to gain one first down. The first-team offense did just that, and Jones coached up the defense, noting "The first play is key, because it impacts what will be done on special teams. If you keep them at the 2 or 3, it changes their punt protections." The second-team offense was stymied.

Freshman defensive end Corey Vereen made some noise early on, showing a nice burst off the edge when and coming clean for a 'touch sack' of Justin Worley. Just a few plays later though Vereen drew some attention to himself in a negative light when he got into a post-play shoving match.

The situation didn't seem to be anything other than the kind scrum you normally see after a play, but Butch Jones used seized the episode and made it a teaching moment. He called for Vereen to be 'thrown out of the game' on his mic over the loudspeakers and further instructed that his helmet and pads be taken away, saying 'we're not doing that around here.'

Jacques Smith, who Steve Stripling called the Vols most consistent pass rusher earlier this week, showed up on Saturday with a sack and a pass deflection, both of which stopped drives.

A.J. Johnson showed up on several occasions, but none bigger than when he delivered a perfectly timed blow to Marlin Lane on third down that broke a pass and forced a change of possession.

Neither of the quarterbacks exactly lit things up at any point during the day, but neither threw an interception and both seemed to handle the demands of running the offense with minimal organizational issues. One thing that has to be taken into account when trying to assess what Peterman is getting done, and that is that the talent at the skill spots on the second unit is not close to being up to SEC standards.

On fourth-and-six late in the scrimmage and with quarterbacks live, Jordan Williams decked Peterman in the backfield for a 10-yard loss. Corey Miller also notched a sack of Worley on a third-down play.

Late in the scrimmage in an "overtime" setting, neither offensive unit could get a first down. Palardy closed the first one when he easily converted from 43 yards out. George Bullock hit a 37-yard field goal for the second-team offense.

Offense down three and second possession of overtime was the next scenario. Trying to convert a 40-yard field goal, Palardy pushed it left.

Peterman provided one of the offensive highlights of the day when he broke containment on first and goal from the two, bought some time and then side-armed a jump throw into a sliding Joe Ayers for an apparent touchdown. The play was called back due to having an ineligible receiver downfield, but Peterman hit walk-on Tyler Coombs on a slant for the score.

Jones isn't remotely shy about using the loudspeakers to make a point. His best one of the day came on the Vereen dismissal. Another notable moment came after Pig Howard nearly fumbled a kickoff return (the ground caused it) when Jones stated, 'Alton, we've got to take care of the football. 107,000 people just groaned.'

In terms of visitors, Dominique Booth, Dylan Jackson, Darius West, Drew Barker, Todd Kelly Jr., Daniel Helm and Lorenzo Featherston all were present inside Neyland Stadium.


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