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April 13, 2013

Highlight plays, situational pressure mark Vols' scrimmage

Butch Jones paced through Neyland Stadium Saturday morning and afternoon, running his team through its final major evaluative scrimmage of spring camp in the Vols' 12th practice session.

With hundreds of high school coaches onlooking, the Vols were drilled in a variety of situational and all-out team situations inside Neyland Stadium. Jones even piped in more crowd noise, though this time he opted for roaring cheers initially and then reintroduced crying babies, blaring car horns and jet airplanes taking off as had been the case earlier this week in practice.

Turnovers and inconsistency marred the Vols' early offensive work, with quarterback Justin Worley --- after an impressive run around left end on a zone-read option ---- getting tangled up with Rajion Neal on the second snap that resulted in an A.J. Johnson fumble recovery. The Vols' offense also continued to miss Marlin Lane, who was not with the team for the second-straight practice and third time in its last six sessions.

The second-team offense moved into field goal range, and Michael Palardy --- who appears on the verge of commanding all three specialist positions for the Vols --- converted a 37-yard field goal. Palardy handled first-team punt and kickoff duties, in addition to field goals and PATs.

Tennessee worked into more situational sets inside the red zone, and the defense initially responded with a three-and-out, prompting Jones to bellow "That's a win defense! That's a win defense!"

Vol defenders Justin Coleman, Geraldo Orta and Dan Hood all generated turnovers, with Coleman's a remarkable one-handed, leaping grab in the right corner of the end zone. Orta cleaned up an errant toss from Nathan Peterman in the end zone after Peterman was flushed from the pocket, and Hood recovered an Alton 'Pig' Howard fumble inside the 10-yard line that was forced by a big hit from Dontavis Sapp.

At one point the defense forced turnovers on four out of five possessions.

Rajion Neal had some of his most impressive runs of the spring, breaking loose on an early hard-charging run up the middle and then scoring on left end during red zone work. Alden Hill delivered some punishing runs, including a 12-yard touchdown run with the first team, and Justin King had a couple of impressive catches, including two touchdowns, in team red-zone work.

Drae Bowles had maybe the catch of the day in red zone work, snagging a throw in the corner of the end zone, sliding to get a knee down and controlling what was a difficult catch.

Michael Palardy had a strong start to the scrimmage both punting an place-kicking, but hit a severe speed bump late in the day. At one point Palardy had five straight misses with the ball on the right hash from 45 yards out before getting his sixth attempt through the uprights.

The only injury of note was Riyahd Jones who left the scrimmage early with an injury but jogged off under his own power. We'll get an update on him as soon as possible. Daniel Gray was the first corner off the bench, replacing Jones with the first team.

Non-participants in the scrimmage were: Paul Harris, Jason Croom, Jacob Carter, Justin Meredith, Trevarris Saulsberry and Brendan Downs. Vincent Dallas returned during pre-scrimmage drills but did not participate in any live action. It was the same, as usual, for Antonio 'Tiny' Richardson, who has been managed closely this spring as he continues to recover from having his knee scoped in the offseason.

The first team offensive line opened in the same manner they have worked all week with Zach Fulton at right tackle, Ja'Wuan James at left tackle, Marcus Jackson at right guard, Alex Bullard at left guard and James Stone at center.

The Vols wrapped up the work with Jones giving the offensive units the ball inside their own 30-yard lines and indicating it was time to run out the clock for the win with 2:22 left to play. The defense was given two timeouts and told to get the offense off the field. Defensive players were even made to get to officials to call timeouts.

As for visitors Milan Richard, Vic Wharton, Zach Stewart and Grant Haley were in attendance as were a number of the signees like Woody Quinn, Brett Kendrick and Josh Smith.

At the conclusion of practice Inky Johnson gave the team a spirited talk.

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