The new coach would still like to see his defense create a few more turnovers during camp though.
After avoiding any turnovers in the first scrimmage on Tuesday, UT was largely able to again avoid coughing up the ball during its second live game work on Saturday night at Neyland Stadium. There was one fumble that went the other way for the Vols, but aside from that, the offense continues to have a decided edge in the turnover battle.
“The offense is protecting it well, and that’s going to be key for us,” Dooley said. “But we need to get some. We haven’t gotten them on defense.
“We got some early on in camp, but we’ve kind of lost that.”
The defense did find more passion than it showed earlier in the week when it drew the ire of Dooley for not showing up with enough intensity, and it seemed to receive some better reviews with a mulligan based on comments after the closed workout.
According to stats provided by UT, the only turnover came on a fumble by backup running back Toney Williams that was recovered by middle linebacker Austin Johnson, though the defense could have had a much bigger night against an offense trying to stress ball protection. At least three other chances to add to the lone takeaway through two scrimmages slipped through UT’s hands, which put a blemish on a performance that in most every other area was improved defensively.
“It went better, and we improved in a lot of things,” linebacker Nick Reveiz said. “But the biggest thing is tonight we didn’t finish. Last scrimmage we finished well as far as two-minute and four-minute (situations), but tonight we didn’t do that. We started out well, had a lot of good energy and made a lot of plays. But in the end, we didn’t finish the right way, the way we should have.
“We’ve just got to keep working. It’s not frustration, it’s just something we’ve got to work on. It’s attempts, it’s strip attempts, actually holding onto that ball. We could have had three interceptions tonight and we dropped them. That’s just practice and putting yourself in that situation, but that’s the good thing — we’re putting ourselves in that situation, we’ve just got to finish the play. That’s something we didn’t do tonight.”
The flip side is the offense is finishing more plays, including three of them in the end zone off passes from Matt Simms. The leader at this point to win the UT starting job at quarterback avoided any major mistakes for the second consecutive scrimmage, wasn’t charged with any turnovers and piled up 235 yards while completing 11 of 22 attempts.
True freshman Tyler Bray also had a productive scrimmage at quarterback, finishing 16-of-28 for 246 yards as he continues to push Simms with less than three weeks left until the season opener against UT Martin. Like Simms, the most important stat was a zero in the turnover column for Bray — which is encouraging for a defense that will need help staying off the field during the season but still wants to make a mark in camp.
“The way I see it is if we come at them harder every day in practice, when we’re in shells, when we’re in jerseys, if we come at them relentlessly, when they get in the game, they’re going to know, ‘Just like against our defense, we’ve got to protect it,’ ” defensive end Chris Walker said. “That’s how we approach it, just the same as when they come out and hit us in the mouth like they did last week.
“Anytime we get under the lights at Neyland Stadium, there’s going to be competition. We just had to reboot back up and toughen up.”
The UT defense appears to be getting that toughness back. For now, the hardest part is still finding a way to get the ball back.
Tennessee Preseason Scrimmage No. 2
Rushing Leaders (No.-Yds.-TD-Long) – David Oku 7-65-0-23; Tauren Poole 8-44-0-25; Gerald Jones 1-33-0-33; Rajion Neal 11-6-1-14; Toney Williams 9-4-1-4.
Passing Leaders (Att.-Comp.-Int.-Yds.-TD-Long) – Tyler Bray 28-16-0-246-0-66; Matt Simms 22-11-0-235-3-64.
Receiving Leaders (No.-Yds.-TD-Long) – Justin Hunter 5-128-1-64; Da’Rick Rogers 5-63-0-34; Zach Rogers 4-49-0-20; Tauren Poole 3-49-1-20; Rajion Neal 3-38-0-18; Denarius Moore 2-20-0-10; Matt Milton 1-66-0-66; David Oku 1-34-1-34.
Defensive Leaders – Daryl Vereen 7 tackles, 3 TFL (-18), 1 sack (-7); LaMarcus Thompson 5 tackles, 1 TFL (-4); Herman Lathers 4 tackles, 1 sack (-6); Tyler Wolf 4 tackles, 3 TFL (-7); Malik Jackson 3 tackles, 2 TFL (-6), 1 sack (-5); Austin Johnson 3 tackles, 1 fumble recovery; Montori Hughes 2 tackles, 2 sacks (-11); Corey Miller 1 tackle, 1 sack (-7), 1 QB hurry, 1 forced fumble, 1 block.
Field Goals – Daniel Lincoln 2-of-4, long 30; Michael Palardy 1-of-4, long 39, 1 blocked.
Punting (No.-Avg.-Long) – Chad Cunningham 3-34.0-39; Michael Palardy 2-43.0-52; Matt Darr 3-32.7-36.
Offense – Tackles Dallas Thomas and Ja’Wuan James, Guards Jarrod Shaw and JerQuari Schofield, Center Cody Pope, Tight End Luke Stocker, Wide Receivers Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore, Fullback Kevin Cooper, Tailback Tauren Poole, Quarterback Matt Simms.
Defense – Ends Chris Walker and Malik Jackson; Tackles Montori Hughes and Victor Thomas; Linebackers LaMarcus Thompson, Nick Reveiz and Herman Lathers; Cornerbacks Art Evans and Eric Gordon; Safeties Prentiss Waggner and Brent Brewer.
Injury Holdouts – DB Janzen Jackson, FB Ben Bartholomew, LB Nigel Mitchell-Thornton, LB Greg King and DB Naz Oliver.