Everything up to kickoff was on the script, and everybody had a chance to read it.
From then on, only Tennessee coach Derek Dooley and his coordinators knew what was coming next.
Even some of the coaching staff was kept in the dark to keep UT on its toes as it tried its best to make Wednesday night’s mock game at Neyland Stadium a reasonable simulation of the real thing. And though there were slip-ups from players, the coaches and maybe even the video crew, collectively the Vols seemed to come away convinced their young roster was now better prepared for their opener next week against UT Martin.
“I think it was great,” senior linebacker Nick Reveiz said. “Personally, I’ve never done anything like that. We did something similar last year, but I think this was a good thing. I think Coach Dooley was looking steps ahead because we did everything from the Vol Walk to having all the times down in the locker room (during pre-game), how much time you need to get your pads on. Those details are important, because they can be things that can throw you off.
“The situations in the scrimmage were awesome because it kept you on your toes. You had to be listening, you had to be into the game, so I felt that was a good warm-up for Saturdays.”
Dooley did everything he could to keep the Vols off balance, throwing virtually all the situations UT might face at them during the light, approximately one-hour workout.
The first two units had to try an onside kick and also recover one. The Vols had to return a free kick after a safety, try a last-minute field goal with only a few seconds to get it off and also trot out the victory formation and work on taking a knee.
They also did just about everything in between, and all of it without any advance warning about what was coming at them.
“(It’s) just being tuned into the changes in a game,” Dooley said from the same podium where he would address the media after a real game. “Special teams changes, offense-defense sudden change, so learning to be locked into the game and the situation so we don’t have any personnel problems. We had two occasions out there, one time we went from Nickel to goal-line, we got 12 guys on the field, we had a couple sideline issues … that’s why we do that.
“That’s the mental part of it, because you don’t get that in practice. You just have these periods that you work on, so that was the other reason it was good.”
Without any real prompting, Dooley admitted that good work might not really have made the Vols any better on the field, particularly since there was little physical contact and position battles for the most part have been settled.
But in terms of preparation, the entire program is likely more comfortable with how a game day will be operated. And Dooley also was able to make a laundry list of areas to improve on thanks to the test run.
“This is why we do this — 26 things I wrote down that we’ve got to clean up administratively, not football-wise,” he said. “I’m just talking about administration with coaches’ headsets, adjustments and how we do things.
“I told the players they were very professional about it and they approached it the right way. I think we got a lot accomplished. We didn’t really get better as a football team, but we got a lot done in the hopes that the first game we can play well. That’s what we were here for.”
And the next time they’re all back, the Vols will know what to expect.
Plus or minus a few more faces and a lot more noise.
“Of course, you’re trying to get as close as you can,” Reveiz said. “You can’t factor in 100,000 people screaming and crying, but I think they did a great job.”