Defensive backs steal the show

Tennessee defensive backs Stephaun Raines (29) and Darren Myles Jr. (3) celebrate after Myles intercepted the ball from wide receiver Gerald Jones during the Orange and White game at Neyland Stadium Saturday, Apr. 17, 2010.

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee defensive backs Stephaun Raines (29) and Darren Myles Jr. (3) celebrate after Myles intercepted the ball from wide receiver Gerald Jones during the Orange and White game at Neyland Stadium Saturday, Apr. 17, 2010.

Click image to enlarge.

Click image to enlarge.

Tennessee's defensive backs owe fans attending the Orange and White Game an apology.

The 35,891 in Neyland Stadium were understandably there to check out UT quarterbacks Matt Simms and Tyler Bray. After all, there's a close competition at the sport's most marquee position.

Neither quarterback, however, was able to do much against UT's secondary, even without departed star Eric Berry. The top duo at quarterback completed just 30 of 66 passes for 325 yards, three interceptions and two touchdowns.

Simms was responsible for all the interceptions, throwing one to safety Darren Myles Jr. just before halftime.

"I saw the quarterback looking at the receiver the whole time-that was his mistake," said Myles, who also batted down another pass. "I just made a play on the ball. At the safety position, Janzen (Jackson) and I just have a connection and we like to confuse the quarterback."

Jackson, who also defended a pass at strong safety, has played closer to the line of scrimmage this season as opposed to last year when he roamed deep as a free safety.

"Janzen is good at everything; that's part of the problem," head coach Derek Dooley said. "But he can't do everything."

Jackson has impressed Dooley so much with his athleticism that he even returned punts on Saturday, returning two for 43 yards.

"He's got ability back there," Dooley said. "He doesn't know how to hold the ball yet. That kind of worries me. He's not afraid. He's got the great returner mentality."

Said Jackson, "That is pretty new for me (in college). I did it in high school, so I might be getting a chance at it this season."

Jackson also showcased the type of play that UT fans are used to when he rocked kick returner David Oku in the first quarter.

Even more importantly, Jackson has shown Dooley none of the shortcomings that nearly derailed his career last year when he was charged with attempted armed robbery last fall - a charge that was later dropped.

"I've seen nothing but a great smile, a phenomenal attitude, a phenomenal work ethic," Dooley said. "We're working very hard to support him off the field. He's been great. He's been a real treat to coach. I hope he continues to do that and I expect him to."

Former Austin-East High star Anthony Anderson also intercepted a Simms pass that clinched the game for the White. Anderson defended two passes and registered seven tackles, which was second-best in the game.

Poole Time: Tailback Tauren Poole said a hard hit from cornerback Eric Gordon in the first quarter got rid of his early game jitters.

"That's the running back position," the junior said. "You're going to get hit. We take hits all the time."

Poole finished with 43 yards on 12 carries and three receptions for 58 yards.

"I felt like I've always had the hands," Poole said when asked about being a receiving threat. "I got the ball like that a lot in high school."

Poole made several defenders miss in the open field on Saturday.

"Tauren is a great player so he made me miss a few tackles on him," linebacker LaMarcus Thompson said. "He's a very good runner.

"He's probably one of the hardest guys I've ever had to tackle in my career. He has a low center of gravity. He's very powerful and fast and he can stop on a dime. Put all those together and you've got a great running back."

The Pope: Cody Pope likes his new home at center, where he started for the Orange after just being moved there from guard about a week ago.

"I feel like I'm getting more and more comfortable," the junior said. "It's kind of fun, honestly, playing center right now. I kind of like having control. I'm basically the second quarterback out there making the (line) calls."

Pope said he's comfortable with the basic offensive line calls, but knows there will be tougher challenges ahead.

"When we get into camp, heads will be spinning a little harder, but by that time I should have all my stuff down," he said.

Pope, who has played every position on UT's offensive line, tight end and defensive tackle, said he'd prefer to play center to guard.

Pope said his varied history at UT will help him play center.

"I think it's really helped me," he said. "I'm going to be a little more comfortable than other guys (at a new position)."

Young 'Uns: Former Ooltewah defensive end Jacques Smith was the only true freshman to win a spring award, nabbing the Big Lick Award, along with receiver Gerald Jones and cornerback Eric Gordon, given to the players who consistently displayed the most physical toughness. Smith enrolled at UT in January.

"These mid-year guys are incredibly mature," Dooley said. "Jacques played probably the most consistently of all those young cats. He's got a good physical presence. He has a great attitude, great character, just been impressed with his consistency over 15 practices. That's not an easy thing to do."

Dooley also commended two other mid-year enrollees, offensive lineman JaWuan James and defensive end Corey Miller, for their play this spring.

Dooley Noted: Looking back on spring practice, Dooley said he was pleased with the progress of UT's offensive line, defensive tackle Montori Hughes and UT safeties Jackson and Myles.

Dooley said he was still concerned about UT's depth on its offensive line. He also said he wishes UT's coaches could have adequately evaluated their players sooner to better suit their offensive and defensive approach.

"You shape (scheme) around your players," Dooley said. "We spent the first half of spring figuring out what we had."

Dooley said former Vol/New York Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis addressed the team before Saturday's game and spoke about team unity and togetherness.

"It just gives me chills to see those guys," Dooley said, referring to former Vols. "And I love them."

UT's fans saw plenty of its former stars. Al Wilson, Peerless Price and Fred White were some of the former Vols that participated in a flag football game during halftime.

Injury Report: The Vols finished a mostly injury-free spring camp with an Orange and White Game that resulted in just bumps and bruises. Dooley said it appears that center Victor Thomas only suffered a hyper-extended knee after being helped off the field.

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Comments » 26

ncvol17 writes:

hope it is a strength of the team come fall...

VolGrad writes:

Fall cannot come fast enough for me.

FWBVol writes:

It sounds as if in some ways Derek Dooley is as much in awe...in a good way...of former Vols as many of us fans. I think CDD is going to do things the right way in keeping the traditions and former players close to his program.

Titan writes:

Returned punts? Come on Hooker - mental error. They fair caught all punts. He returned kickoffs.

steamboatticket#484773 writes:

After watching the Orange and White Game, I'm thinking that Coach Dooley and the Volunteers are fixing for the 2010 fights, looking good.

UTVOLSRROCKN writes:

Dave, I must say, "Great article"! Our D is OUTSTANDING! Way to play boyzzz! Now, start Bray and let him throw to all the great WR's and let Poole and company run over everyone. GBO!!!!

LadyVolsEighTimes writes:

The second best thing my Husband said at the game today, "Honey, Vols Defense is gonna break a few Quarterbacks."

CDD must get the Vols D, back to where Chief left it, not to where Monte screwed it! The Tampa Two, eats Middle Linebackers! In the NFL you have an almost endless supply of them you can sign or activate.

The age old Neyland, "Tennesse Defense, brings the Safeties on BLITZ's, linebackers just need to drop back in cover for the errant pass.

olozbal#646632 writes:

Has Coach Chaney always looked that huge? Looks like a computer programmer who never leaves his desk.

I feel 100% better today about UT football's direction than I did a month ago by the way. We've got some serious players on our team.

JACK8254 writes:

Isn't 35 K a much smaller crowd that last year?

LadyVolsEighTimes writes:

in response to olozbal#646632:

Has Coach Chaney always looked that huge? Looks like a computer programmer who never leaves his desk.

I feel 100% better today about UT football's direction than I did a month ago by the way. We've got some serious players on our team.

LOL! You saw a big UT Defense today, that hit like a megaton of bricks!

Joevolsxtra writes:

in response to olozbal#646632:

Has Coach Chaney always looked that huge? Looks like a computer programmer who never leaves his desk.

I feel 100% better today about UT football's direction than I did a month ago by the way. We've got some serious players on our team.

Oh and those shoes he tried to pull off, just did NOT go with that handbag! Thanks for the queer-eye for the straight guy practice update!

10volunteers98 writes:

I was pretty impressed with Tyler Bray.Good arm.His accuracy will improve.Glad to see that Janzen Jackson still likes to lay the wood to unlucky opponents.

iowavol writes:

Hit the weight room, hit the books, hit the play book, pitch and catch, go to class. Focus on getting bigger, stronger, smarter. While I'm exited about the possibilities, w/out backups on both lines, it could be a very long season

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

in response to JACK8254:

Isn't 35 K a much smaller crowd that last year?

Yeah, I went both years and yesterdays looked smaller, was 35,000 and I believe last years attendance was around 46,000.

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

It says Simms had all the INT but I thought Tyler threw one late in the game also?

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

Anyone hear an update on Victor Thomas' injury yet???

Southland writes:

the small crowds are to be expected. We have been down for a few years. People do not get excited about another 7-5 season. I am. I hope we can do that well and build on it. Bash Fulmer all you want. He spoiled us for several years. Then came the decline and morale has been low. Give Dooley time and fill the roster with players--as a team-that can compete for championships and Orange and White day will be big again. I look for empty seats at Neyland again this year. Remember last year-even with idiotic statements like "fear the Kiffin" there were plenty of empty seats. We will be back

BIGORANGEDOG writes:

Big day for fans, mostly. We all shook off some of the concerns that have been written on this page up unti now. The RB's position looks to be in good hands, so obviously we have some OL players that want to start because I saw several nice holes opened Saturday afternoon, depth here is still the concern. The WR position was hitting on about 6 out of 8 cylinders with their QB's but on the white side of the ball adjustments were made while in route and that makes for continuity between the two positions. Defensively I thought we looked ahead of schedule, but that side of the ball generally is at this point. The DB's were a welcomed sight to see, several nice breaks on the ball and definatly not afraid to hit somebody. The LB's are learning what is expected of them in this defense and for the most part stayed in their lanes. They will cause some excitment this season for certain. The DL looks much stronger then any of us could have hoped, we can expect to hear the name "Jacques Smith" from Ooltewah High School mentioned early and often. He has a knack much like Dwight Freeny with the Colts for getting into the backfield and his nose for the ball will bring him many accolades during his time with us.
I was most pleased with the overall mood and class of the players and staff. Refreshing for someone who has followed "BIG ORANGE FOOTBALL" since the sixties. We have a solid HC who exhibits the charcter it takes to bring honor and integrity back to that position. A welcomed "Tennessee Tradition". CDD has assembled a fine staff that will coach these young men both on and off the field because that is what he does. I saw that much yesterday. GO VOLS!

givehim6 writes:

I said earlier and still believe UT's strength this year will lay in its defence, good job guys! A few offensive guys I am impressed with, Bray: even though he is a freshmen he look comfortable in the pocket. Pool: he will be a slasher and dasher, fast, a threet to break one. Oops got to go, more come later.

AtlantaTide writes:

in response to orangeluvr:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Agreed. Roll Tide.

HtownVol writes:

in response to RichRollin:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I thought that there were no blitzes yesterday?

I know Simms didnt have many WRs yesterday, but I really think this team will have a much better chance if Tyler is the QB. He has a gun! his delivery is a little akward but he throws on a line. In the 4th qtr yesterday when he threw 2 straight screen passes to Moore he threw to the opposite side of the field and the ball never went over about 12 feet high.

I was surprised that the O-Line did well yesterday. They were not great but much better than I was expecting.

D. Moore takes too many plays off. I noticed that he has a good play then he does not put his all into the next. Matt Milton is going to be a great WR. 6'6 and can run very well and catch. I hope he gets a lot of playing time.

And the D... well they will be just fine!

givehim6 writes:

in response to givehim6:

I said earlier and still believe UT's strength this year will lay in its defence, good job guys! A few offensive guys I am impressed with, Bray: even though he is a freshmen he look comfortable in the pocket. Pool: he will be a slasher and dasher, fast, a threet to break one. Oops got to go, more come later.

OK I'm back. The receivers did OK I think Milton once he learns the system and how to stretch that long body out will be a deep threat guy. hope our SP TEAMS can make it's own history this season, have a good filling about this Roman guy.

Titan writes:

in response to steviejanowski:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Good point. I travel up from Nashville area. With the fan day activities staring at 0900 Nashville time, that means leaving home really early to get there in time for that. Without fan day activities, it's a long way for 40 minutes of glorified scrimmage. I liked it much better years ago when they had the fan day activities at Neyland right before the start of the game.

TommyJack writes:

Crowd size at Spring games = irrelevant.

Denvervol4life writes:

I don't know what game u all watched Saturday but it's bout 2 b a looooong year!!!

Brentwoodboy3 writes:

Bray is the man!!!! Very impressive and no pics!!!

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