Three turnovers stymied Tennessee’s first-team offense and ignited its first-team defense on Saturday during the Vols’ first scrimmage under new coach Lane Kiffin.
“I thought it went really well,” Kiffin said. “Unfortunately, there were three turnovers today offensively. But there were some good runs and some really big hits. It felt like a game today.”
The 84-play scrimmage didn’t do much to clear up the competition at quarterback among Jonathan Crompton, B.J. Coleman and Nick Stephens — all of whom saw playing time last season.
Crompton directed the first team and finished 9-of-16 for 90 yards. He fumbled once on a sack by defensive end Chris Walker, and an underthrown pass was intercepted by C.J. Fleming.
“The turnovers are something we’re going to have to work on,” Crompton said. “It’s something we have to emphasize because you can’t win games in the (Southeastern Conference) doing that.”
B.J. Coleman was 17-of-22 for 112 yards with no interceptions leading the second-string offense. Stephens, who is recovering from a broken wrist, sat out of the scrimmage.
Kiffin chose to limit starting running back Montario Hardesty’s play to give backups Toney Williams and Tauren Poole a chance to show what they could do.
Williams carried 14 times for 84 yards and two TDs. Poole had 81 yards and a dazzling 16-yard touchdown but fumbled twice.
“The (turnovers) are a big momentum break,” offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. “I don’t fault their effort. Sometimes turnovers are a lot of mysterious things, but ultimately they’re horrible and they’re bad. We just have to get smarter.”
Hardesty finished with 29 yards and a 1-yard TD run.
“We didn’t run Hardesty as much today because we feel good with where he’s at and wanted to see the other guys,” Kiffin said. “It was great to see them step up.”
On a day when the defense dominated, Tennessee defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin got a chance to show off for one of his former proteges.
Mike Tomlin, head coach of the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, was in town as the featured speaker of UT’s spring coaching clinic. Tomlin was a defensive backs coach for Kiffin’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense from 2001-2005.
“I worked with that man shoulder to shoulder for five years,” Tomlin said of Monte Kiffin. “I had the experience of a lifetime and grew big time as a person and coach.”