- DE Chris Walker talks about the long plays that UT's defense gave up on Saturday
- Eric Berry talks to the media about preparing for Saturday's scrimmage
- Dave Hooker interviews DB coach Willie Mack Garza
- QB Jonathan Crompton talks to the media
- RB coach Eddie Gran talks to the media
- Dave Hooker interviews C Cody Sullins
- Dave Hooker interviews Lane Kiffin about TB Bryce Brown's tough day
Tennessee probably made school history with the first snap at Neyland Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Five plays later, it had part of the crowd tweeting and texting away about another football milestone.
The history: When was the last time UT had a full-scale scrimmage this early (four weeks before its season opener)? "Never" is my best guess. If former UT publicist Haywood Harris knows better, I'll provide a correction.
Yet the scrimmage hardly seemed out of place, given the intensity of the previous four practices.
New UT coach Lane Kiffin and his assistants are obviously hit-happy. In fact, at their rate of contact, I wouldn't be surprised if guys started banging helmets as part of their stretching regimen this week.
The milestone: The UT offense drove 70 yards for a touchdown on its first drive, which probably reads like a tabloid sentence to anyone who has a recent history with this football program. In an East Tennessee supermarket checkout line, "Crompton Perfect," turns more heads than "Angelina Gives Birth To Martian."
But quarterback Jonathan Crompton was perfect - 9-for-9 passing - with the first team. He has never looked better - scrimmage or game, day or night.
It wasn't just Crompton. It was the entire offense. Almost everytime you looked up, sophomore running back Tauren Poole was racing into the end zone.
What's with these guys? Don't they know every opening preseason scrimmage is supposed to be accompanied by the headline: "Defense Dominates First Scrimmage"?
The turnabout is more startling because of last year when Crompton played poorly enough to lose the starting job before mid-season and the offense ranked 115th nationally.
Granted, the defense might have been as basic as the Vols will see the rest of the preseason. And, as offensive coordinator Jim Chaney pointed out, there are sometimes underlying mistakes behind big plays, which included a 68-yard touchdown pass from Crompton to Gerald Jones, and a 75-yard run by Poole.
"You watch that tape and you realize maybe it wasn't what you did," Chaney said. "Maybe a young player misaligned on their side, and all of a sudden, it looks as though you've done something special."
But in the context of a week's worth of practice, this wasn't an aberration. The wide receivers have caught the ball well for three consecutive practices; Crompton has made outstanding throws, just without the consistency he demonstrated Saturday; and the four running backs - veterans and freshmen alike - all have distinguished themselves.
Poole might have been the star, but freshman tailbacks David Oku and Bryce Brown continued to show their potential. Oku had a 43-yard touchdown run, which was nullified by a penalty, while Brown had 50 yards on 11 carries while running mostly with the second team and against the second-team defense.
Brown's performance was noteworthy in that he was held out of contact Friday after suffering a "mild concussion" in Thursday's practice. Three times, Brown beat the defense around the corner on runs of 12, 14, and 3 yards for a touchdown. He not only ran fast, he ran aggressively.
He better. In a camp as competitive as this one, every play - every run - matters.
"Our guys on offense understand there's no job certain until we get through camp," Chaney said. "There's no position set anywhere on our football field."
The running backs apparently have got the message.
"Everyone is competing,' UT running backs coach Eddie Gran said. "We told the freshmen when they came in here, 'This is their time.' They get a chance to come in and play."
The whole offense made the most of its chance Saturday.
But it wasn't just ahead of the defense for a day. It was ahead of schedule.
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or email@example.com.