If you’re keeping score this spring, it’s Defense 2, Offense 0.
For the second week in a row, Tennessee’s offense struggled to protect the football during a full scrimmage inside Neyland Stadium.
Shortly after the Vols’ two-hour scrimmage Saturday afternoon, UT coach Phillip Fulmer didn’t mince his words.
“I learned a long time ago not to say too much until you watch the tape,” Fulmer said, “but today was a royal butt-kicking.”
Heading into Saturday’s workout, the second of three weekend scrimmages leading up to the Orange and White Game on April 19, Fulmer and first-year offensive coordinator Dave Clawson wanted to see ball security become a priority.
But a week after the Vols had one interception and several botched center-quarterback exchanges, UT’s top three quarterbacks combined to throw four interceptions.
Jonathan Crompton – heir apparent to Erik Ainge as UT’s starter this fall – completed 10 of 18 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown.
But he also had three interceptions.
“I don’t know how to explain them,” Crompton said. “I’ve got to get in there and see what I did wrong, if the receiver did anything we can correct. I’ve got to correct myself first. They just made a good play.”
DeAngelo Willingham picked off two of the passes and former Fulton standout Dennis Rogan intercepted the other, taking it back 82 yards for a touchdown.
Former Austin-East standout Anthony Anderson had UT’s other interception, a diving play on a B.J. Coleman throw intended for true freshman running back Tauren Poole.
All those turnovers weren’t exactly what Clawson and Fulmer were hoping for from Saturday’s scrimmage.
“The No. 1 goal is we have to win the turnover battle,” Clawson said. “We turned it over too often today. Part of that is bad decision making on the quarterback, part of that is guys slipping on routes and those are things that can’t happen if you’re going to win football games. We’ll learn from it and grow from it and we’ll be better in a week.”
Despite the turnovers, Tennessee did show improvement from last week.
With Clawson’s multiple offense about two-thirds of the way installed, players seemed a little more accustomed to the offense, as one would expect after nine practices.
“The first scrimmage we had, there was a more thinking than there was actually playing,” offensive lineman Anthony Parker said. “The week we had in between, we learned the offense better. It was more playing instead of thinking. Not as much thinking, I should say.”
Tennessee also moved the ball better on offense than it did a week ago.
Coleman completed 12 of his 18 passes for 63 yards and a touchdown during red zone work late in the scrimmage.
Nick Stephens was 9 of 14 for 92 yards, without an interception or touchdown.
Tight end Luke Stocker provided the offense’s biggest play with a 55-yard reception that set up a touchdown on the offense’s first drive.
Arian Foster also broke a 19-yard run from scrimmage during which he shed a tackle from Demetrice Morley.
But those improvements didn’t stand out nearly as much as the interceptions.
“I think if you take away the interceptions, we actually moved the ball better today and had a little bit of a run game going,” Clawson said. “But you can’t eliminate the interceptions.”
By next week, Clawson hopes to have about 90 percent of his offense installed, and Crompton wants to make sure he’s learned from whatever mistakes were made Saturday.
But any aggregate scores accumulated this spring don’t concern Crompton.
“If you want to say ‘beat our defense’ that’s not our goal,” Crompton said. “Our goal is to get better, and that’s what we’re trying to do every day.”
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.
Rushing Leaders (Att.-Yds.-TD) -- Arian Foster 9-45-0; Lennon Creer 8-15-0; Daryl Vereen 6-2-0; Tauren Poole 8-9-0.
Passing Leaders (Att.-Comp.-Int.-Yds.-TD) -- Jonathan Crompton 18-10-3-108-1; Nick Stephens 14-9-0-92-0; B.J. Coleman 18-12-1-63-1.
Receiving Leaders (No.-Yds.-TD) -- Ahmad Paige 7-73-0; Luke Stocker 2-62-0; Quintin Hancock 3-44-1; Tyler Maples 2-42-1; Josh Briscoe 4-40-1; Austin Rogers 3-17-0; Lennon Creer 2-15-0.
Defensive Leaders -- Demetrice Morley 6 tackles, 1 blocked kick; Nick Reveiz 6 tackles, 2 TFL (-7), 1 sack (-4); Derrick Furlow 6 tackles, 2 PBU; Eric Berry 5 tackles; LaMarcus Thompson 5 tackles, 1 TFL (-1); Rico McCoy 4 tackles; Art Evans 4 tackles, 1 TFL (-3); Ellix Wilson 4 tackles; Antonio Anderson 4 tackles, 1 TFL (-3); Chris Donald 3 tackles, 1 TFL (-3); DeAngelo Willingham 3 tackles, 2 INT (2-yard return); Adam Myers-White 3 tackles, 1 sack (-8), 2 PBU; Brett Barnes 3 tackles; Robert Ayers 3 tackles, 3 TFL (-17), 2 sacks (-14); Vince Faison 3 tackles; Dennis Rogan 2 tackles, 1 INT (82 yard return for TD).
Field Goal Leaders -- Daniel Lincoln 5-of-8, long 51; Devin Mathis 5-of-7, long 34.
Punting Leaders -- Chad Cunningham 5 for 40.6 avg.; Britton Colquitt 3 for 41.0 avg.
Punt Return Leaders -- Dennis Rogan 1-53; Ahmad Paige 1-19; Gerald Jones 1-11.
Scoring Plays --
Briscoe 7 pass from Crompton (Lincoln kick)
Rogan 82 interception return (Lincoln kick)
Maples 36 pass from Shamblin (Koyano kick)
Hancock 14 pass from Coleman (Mathis kick)
Offensive Starters: Quarterback Jonathan Crompton, wide receivers Denarius Moore and Austin Rogers, tight end Luke Stocker, fullback Kevin Cooper, tailback Arian Foster, tackles Chris Scott and Ramon Foster, guards Vladimir Richard and Jacques McClendon, and center Anthony Parker.
Defensive Starters: Ends Wes Brown and Robert Ayers, tackles Demonte Bolden and Dan Williams, linebackers Rico McCoy, Ellix Wilson and Adam Myers White, cornerbacks Dennis Rogan and DeAngelo Willingham, and safeties Eric Berry and Demetrice Morley.