Stephens pleased with spring performance

Nick Stephens would like to think he's the frontrunner for the job as Tennessee's starting quarterback this fall.

He has starting experience. He is a rising senior. He is somewhat familiar with the offense under new coach Derek Dooley, who retained last year's offensive coordinator, Jim Chaney.

"I hope I can bring leadership since I'm a senior, along with the knowledge of the offense, which is similar to last year's, and just being able to make good decisions on a daily basis," Stephens said after Saturday's practice and scrimmage.

Dooley, however, isn't near ready to announce a starter. In fact, Dooley is reluctant to give a hint about who's the leader for the quarterback job - Stephens or junior college transfer Matt Simms.

Asked if Stephens and Simms were about 50-50 on the depth chart for No. 1, Dooley said, "I'm not going to give numbers out."

Dooley said both are working with the first-team offense.

"We're rolling the guys, and Nick and Matt have been rolling with the ones," Dooley said, "and (freshman) Tyler (Bray) is showing some good progress. He's been getting all his reps with the twos, so we're trying to mix it up."

Stephens started six games in 2008, splitting starts and time with departed senior Jonathan Crompton under then-coach Phillip Fulmer.

Crompton won the starting job over Stephens last fall under former coach Lane Kiffin, who replaced Fulmer and left for Southern California after the 2009 season.

Once he decided on Crompton last fall, Kiffin didn't waver.

Stephens played in three games in 2009 in mop-up duty and completed nine of 13 passes for 142 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Stephens is pleased with how he's performed this spring.

"I think the first couple of days, each day I had a mistake, and I've eliminated those the past three practices and made good decisions with the football and completed a lot of balls in seven-on-seven and team, so I think I've been doing well," said Stephens.

Stephens said he is focused on what he does, not what the other quarterbacks are doing and the snaps they're getting.

"I'm not paying that much attention to it," Stephens said, "but I'm going first and Matt's going second. Other than that, I'm not really thinking about the way (snaps) are split up."

Goal-line Moves: UT's offensive line, still shaken by Aaron Douglas' decision to leave the team on Thursday, had a good day in goal-line drills when it helped the offense score three times in three tries.

"Awesome," Stephens said of the O-Line's performance in the drill. "It's great to see that, punching the ball in and seeing them getting fired up. It just shows progress, and that's something this whole offense needs, and it starts with them. They're doing a great job."

Defensive end Chris Walker was on the receiving end of that drill.

"The offense kind of got us on that one," Walker said, "but like (last) Tuesday, they got us then and we came back on Thursday and got them a little bit."

Walker said the offensive line has something to prove.

"Just playing against them, we've seen that they're going to be better than people think," Walker said. "I just want to let everybody know the offensive line is going to be a good team and they're going to come together and be a good unit."

On the Sidelines: Players wearing red jerseys (limited practice) included linebacker Greg King (knee) and defensive end Ben Martin (knee). Players held out were defensive back Art Evans (shoulder surgery) and linebacker Savion Frazier (knee surgery).

Dave Link is a freelance contributor.

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Comments » 31

vol_chaz writes:

Curious if we will see a 2 qb system or will dooley stick with one guy, through thick and thin. The O and W game is just weeks away....

tnsportsman writes:

I think Coach Dooley will play one QB but might look at 2 during the UTC game, JMO. Sounds like the OL is doing real good and we have great Freshmen coming in like James Stone!

Looking and Sounding OK, GO VOLS!

west_GA_Volsfan writes:

worried about o-line and linebackers & to some degree the d-backs. next season is a killer schedule- no time to breathe. hope these 3 areas are strengthened. GBO

springtx_vol writes:

If you look at out depth chart and the quality of the recruits, we have plenty of talent on this team. It is young and inexperienced, but it is quality. We have some experience at QB, WR, RB and LB. We have some size at OL and we don't have some of the big ones in camp yet.

If this coaching staff is halfway decent, I think we are going to be surprised by the results this year. No, I am not drinking the koolaid. Let's review:

Florida - the first SEC road game for an relatively inexperienced (very talented) QB for a team that is trying to replace a LOT of lost talent.

Oregon - just lost it starting QB for the year.

Alabama - tough one to see us winning.

Georgia - we own them and should be equal or better on talent. They will have a new QB also.

LSU - who knows.

So, I would not be surprised by anything from 9-3 to 6-6. The good news is that we don't have a head coach learning how to be a head coach. He that shall not be named cost us the UCLA game with his play calling at the end. We have a head coach and two coordinators that have been through the fire. I can't wait!

tree_em_smokey writes:

in response to springtx_vol:

If you look at out depth chart and the quality of the recruits, we have plenty of talent on this team. It is young and inexperienced, but it is quality. We have some experience at QB, WR, RB and LB. We have some size at OL and we don't have some of the big ones in camp yet.

If this coaching staff is halfway decent, I think we are going to be surprised by the results this year. No, I am not drinking the koolaid. Let's review:

Florida - the first SEC road game for an relatively inexperienced (very talented) QB for a team that is trying to replace a LOT of lost talent.

Oregon - just lost it starting QB for the year.

Alabama - tough one to see us winning.

Georgia - we own them and should be equal or better on talent. They will have a new QB also.

LSU - who knows.

So, I would not be surprised by anything from 9-3 to 6-6. The good news is that we don't have a head coach learning how to be a head coach. He that shall not be named cost us the UCLA game with his play calling at the end. We have a head coach and two coordinators that have been through the fire. I can't wait!

I concur. We also have plenty of good recievers coming in. Its been a while since weve had this many talented recievers on the team. Just hope a couple will turn out to be as good as Meachem. GBO!!!

tree_em_smokey writes:

Im still stoked about us being in the elite eight! Hope tommorrow we will make some more history.

tree_em_smokey writes:

in response to Biggunzz44:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You with all your pissimism. All your posts are negative. Im realistic. I dont see us going undefeated next year but I dont see us going 5 and 7. I didnt see Kentucky going down tonight but that is why we play the game.

TommyJack writes:

With the inexperienced OL we have, anything over 5 wins will be remarkable.

givehim6 writes:

May the best man win.

Gator_Hater (Inactive) writes:

in response to brown-bag-vol-fan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

As of now it sounds like Victor Thomas, Dallas Thomas, Jerquari Schofield, Jarrod Shaw and Jawuan James. Daniel Hood is second team center, Cody Pope sounds like the first reserve at all the other positions. Haven't heard anything about Kevin Revis yet.

DarthWilson writes:

After hearing Chris Walker's comments I feel a little better. If CDD does a good job getting these guys back to fundemental football, something we have lacked, then 6 to 8 wins is reasonable. O-line and D-line (depth and talent) are still the big question to me. We could be 3 or 4 plays between a good season and one of those other kinds. Keeping guys healthy will be huge this year.

OrangePsyched writes:

This team is definitely not lousy. I believe that we recruit and sign some of the most talented players in the country. With this staff I have said more than once that I think we will finish 8-4. Biggunzz what is your prediction officially so that we can record for posterity and one of us this fall can say "I told you so." I do agree with you that if Simms and Stephens stay this close in competition that Simms should start.

UTByrd writes:

Building a football team is just like building a house. Phase 1: Build a strong foundation. Phase 2: Frame it up, "get it in the dry". Phase 3: Trim it out, pretty it up, make it a home.
I believe Coach Dooley realizes this and will handle his responsiblities quite capably. It is up to us as Volunteer fans to give him a proper amount of time to accomplish building a strong home that will last for years to come, 3 years at the least.
Go VOLS!!!!!

GoUTVols3 writes:

My friend was the kicker (from Oak Ridge) at La Tech under Dooley, and he says that Dooley is a great coach, that Tennessee fans will be very happy down the road. I played football with him and completely trust his view on the matter. That coupled with my own observations makes me believe that Dooley might be the best thing that happened to Tennessee in a very long time. Now if I could just figure out what it was that Dooley did to tick off the people on 990 AM, because everyone on there seems to be completely anti-DD. Was it because Dooley made Strange look foolish, admittedly for little reason, but he is the HEAD FOOTBALL COACH AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE, he is not running for public office and he doesn't have to kiss anyone's... He just needs to be what he feels is best for the football program at all times. I know next year will be a rough year, but underclassmen have a bigger role in college athletics every year it seems and we have had two fantastic recruiting classes in a row... Good head coach, good offensive coordinator, good defensive coordinator, good recruiters securing good recruits, good enough upper class... enough said. It will be a tough year next year because we will still be ironing out the kinks of three coaches in three years plus one of the toughest schedules in the country, but forget the doom and gloom, A BOWL GAME IS POSSIBLE AND IF I'M NOT MISTAKEN WE FINISHED 7-6 AND GOT BLOWN OUT IN OUR BOWL GAME LAST YEAR and most people locally think it was a good year

am I off base here, why the negativity? it must be a tennessee thing(ask seth davis) go vols WE ARE ELITE, we are making history, as it stands now we are one of six basketball programs left in the country that can still win the NATIONAL TITLE, this is so much better than the BCS

GoUTVols3 writes:

in response to Biggunzz44:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

3-9? So you have us beating UT-Martin, UAB and Memphis and going 0-8 in the SEC and losing to Oregon...i'm assuming? Why don't you find some other place to troll

99gator writes:

in response to AF1A4:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

2011 will not be a 10 to 12 win season.

stop spiking the kool-aid. dooley is going to need a heck of a lot more time than that.

92volalum writes:

i say 6 wins this year and 8-9 after that... we need two more top 5 rec classes to win 10 or 12 games....

I hate to say this more than anyone but we are not a good football team. yeah we've had a few good recruiting classes but we're lacking on the OL and DL and LB. The QB is suspect and who know's how he will perform playing the big boys...

Is CDD the guy I don't know but i will say this of 20+years of being a vol fan and alum I am not excited about the upcoming year.. It could be the last 3 yrs have just worn on me and made me jaded but until they prove they can run with the big dogs I will take a wait and see approach.

GBO and beat mich st

rockytopatl writes:

in response to tree_em_smokey:

I concur. We also have plenty of good recievers coming in. Its been a while since weve had this many talented recievers on the team. Just hope a couple will turn out to be as good as Meachem. GBO!!!

It doesn't matter how many good receivers we have if we don't have a line that can give the QB time to throw the ball. This team will live or die based on how well that OL develops.

I was amazed at how the last staff pieced together a serviceable line with walk ons, also-rans, and, of course, Douglas. If this staff can do the same thing and maybe develop a little depth as well, we will be raving not only about those receivers, but Poole and Oku as well.

tnsportsman writes:

in response to Biggunzz44:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

PLEASE take the 'WE' out of your post and put UT or Tennessee. Because 'WE' as Big Orange Fans don't practice your negative sky is falling attitude!

If you had ever played the game, you would know REAL Players are full of optimism, spirit and can-do attitude! The head between the ears is 50% of ANY football win!

2010 Vols 8 & 4 Regular Season, Book It and Come See After!

GO VOLS!

tnsportsman writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yeah thanks that is so true Big James and Stone will start, IMO. Hard to keep guys like that out of the line up!

GO VOLS!

jack_2222#231746 writes:

Offensive line coach spent years in the NFL. Hopefully he gets everything out of them they have.

Ironcity writes:

in response to TommyJack:

With the inexperienced OL we have, anything over 5 wins will be remarkable.

I agree. There really is nothing to be excited about. Once a week someone good leaves the program. 5 new starters on the O-line. Linebackers are all hurt and no one is stepping up. We do have great receivers though!

AllVol2008#1353998 writes:

in response to springtx_vol:

If you look at out depth chart and the quality of the recruits, we have plenty of talent on this team. It is young and inexperienced, but it is quality. We have some experience at QB, WR, RB and LB. We have some size at OL and we don't have some of the big ones in camp yet.

If this coaching staff is halfway decent, I think we are going to be surprised by the results this year. No, I am not drinking the koolaid. Let's review:

Florida - the first SEC road game for an relatively inexperienced (very talented) QB for a team that is trying to replace a LOT of lost talent.

Oregon - just lost it starting QB for the year.

Alabama - tough one to see us winning.

Georgia - we own them and should be equal or better on talent. They will have a new QB also.

LSU - who knows.

So, I would not be surprised by anything from 9-3 to 6-6. The good news is that we don't have a head coach learning how to be a head coach. He that shall not be named cost us the UCLA game with his play calling at the end. We have a head coach and two coordinators that have been through the fire. I can't wait!

Well said, sir. Well said.

AllVol2008#1353998 writes:

Man, I am real tired of hearing that our beating the dogs sh-t out of Georgia is an upset.

hueypilot writes:

This comment by Chris Walker is the only comment I've heard about the D. I'm curious as to how the new DC from Boise is organizing the defense. Qb's get all the ink but defense keeps you in games. And what about a resurgence in the kicking game, Is Palardy on campus or does he come in the summer or fall?

VolAlum2003 (Inactive) writes:

in response to AF1A4:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

"CDD is accustomed to getting the most out of lesser talent."

Based on what? His record at La Tech or the years he spent NOT being the head coach at LSU? Dooley is a nice guy and he certainly is smart, but ONE 8-5 season at La Tech (bookended by two horrible seasons) is not a realistic predication of greatness. Go look at La Tech's 2008 season. They lost to ARMY! Sure they went to the Independence Bowl... here they beat the football juggernaut that is Northern Illinois (cue up all the people that want to argue that N. Illinois was a powerhouse that year).

I'm willing to give Dooley his due: he's smart, he's a hard worker, and he trained under one of the best in the game...but as far as being able to point to tangible coaching successes, he has more losing seasons under his belt than winning ones. You can gloss that over, you can make excuses, and you can ignore it, but 2 losing seasons vs. 1 winning season is a FACT.

Maybe Dooley is a coaching phenom, but there is no evidence of that as of yet. Right now I think that the $1.8 million dollars that my University is paying him is respect enough until he puts wins on the field.

tnsportsman writes:

in response to Biggunzz44:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

LMAO 'sky is falling dude' LMAO! Which position in football did you play?

8 & 4 BOOK IT!

GO VOLS!

ornglovinyankealum writes:

I haven't seen the comments for a week or so. What is the latest with Brice Brown?

Fla_Vol writes:

in response to Biggunzz44:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Biggun,
Your remarks reflect your mentality, as does your spelling.

springtx_vol writes:

in response to Biggunzz44:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The only problem with your argument is that all except for Berry, Hardesty, and Meachum all date to at least 10 years ago. And you left out greats like John Henderson, Albert Haynesworth, Manning, etc. But again, they all date back 10 years ago.

I liked Fulmer. I thought he was a great coach in the 1990's. He lead the SEC in wins. He recruited great players. But look at the first round draft picks from the 1990's compared to the 2000's. Not even close.

As to CDD being a desperate trader, you must not have followed the coach chase very well. Our first choice, Muschamp, told us no and that we should make the next stop at La Tech for Dooley. How much more do we need to consider before accepting CDD?

mj2454#655272 writes:

Why do the articles on UTs QBs never mention Lamaison? Has he left the team? He was supposed to have been a Juco All American when Kiffin signed him, but has seemingly never touched the ball since coming here.

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