Tennessee Stat Book
For a moment Saturday, Tennessee’s offense looked like it was headed for another long afternoon inside Neyland Stadium.
On the first series of the day, tight end Luke Stocker misread the coverage and ran the wrong route. Quarterback Jonathan Crompton compounded that mistake with one of his own, and the ball wound up in the waiting arms of defensive back Anthony Anderson.
An inauspicious start, sure.
But unlike a week ago in the last scrimmage, that mistake was an aberration and not the norm.
“I thought we played a little faster,” new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson said. “It looked like guys knew what they were doing. This is still a work in progress, and we’re not obviously where we need to be, but at least we took a step forward this week.”
Quarterbacks led the charge on a day when the running game increased its production and coaches got looks at several potential playmakers.
Crompton finished 17-of-22 for 149 yards, one touchdown and one interception. In addition, Crompton rushed seven times for 19 yards and two touchdowns in his only full-contact work so far this spring.
“We got better from last week to this week,” said Crompton, who last week was 10-of-18 with three interceptions. “It’s our best improvement overall as an offense. We had less turnovers, less clock-management mistakes and things like that. Just getting better, and that’s the key.”
So was getting more from the running game.
Arian Foster rushed seven times for 38 yards in limited work. Freshman Tauren Poole (17 carries for 45 yards) and sophomore Lennon Creer (10 for 47 yards and one touchdown) showed improvement as well.
“I thought we had a good day at running back,” UT coach Phillip Fulmer said. “Arian is obviously a weapon in a lot of ways. It was good to see Lennon make a couple plays for us, getting the ball down the field and taking care of the ball. I thought Tauren Poole had his best day as a running back at Tennessee. I think he’s going to be really good.”
Receiver Gerald Jones also impressed.
A week after not touching the ball, Jones caught seven passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. Those catches came all over the field, and he lined up both out wide and in the slot. If that wasn’t enough, Jones got the ball on a reverse and even returned a blocked punt 25 yards for a touchdown.
Getting the ball in the dynamic sophomore’s hands was a major goal for Clawson.
“We didn’t really want to look at plays,” Clawson said. “We wanted to try to get certain guys the ball in positions, and he was one of the guys we tried to do that with.”
Overall, players are growing more comfortable with Clawson’s multiple offense, and it showed Saturday.
“Most definitely because now we’ve got the whole offense in and we can just worry about the whole offense instead of putting something new in every day,” said Jones, who has yet to take any snaps at quarterback this spring. “That’s the reason why our scrimmages have been a little shaky, because we’ve been concentrating on what we have to do (so much) that it’s been messing us up.”
As for big-time mess-ups Saturday on offense, the Vols were much better than a week ago.
Nick Stephens connected on 10 of his 15 passes and threw touchdowns to Jones and Quintin Hancock.
Redshirt freshman B.J. Coleman threw the only other interception Saturday, and that was due to an athletic play by linebacker Rico McCoy rather than a major mistake by Coleman.
Even with two turnovers, the offense made a big step in the right direction. And while the Vols aren’t exactly ready to play Florida next weekend, there’s a growing level of comfort and familiarity with Clawson’s offense to showcase in the Orange and White Game.
“I think the most important thing is we’ve seen players progress,” Clawson said. “We have a number of guys who are a much better at practice 12 than they were at practice one. When it’s all said and done, it’s about players, not plays. And if we get the right guys in the right spot and find ways to get them the football, that’s how we need to win football games.”
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.