The Tennessee offense waited a whole week to try to change Derek Dooley’s tune.
It only took one drive for it to give the Vols football coach something worth singing about.
Publicly blistered by Dooley for its lackluster debut in the opening scrimmage of spring, the offense capitalized on the first chance it had in the second on Saturday at Neyland Stadium, quickly marching down the field for a touchdown that helped set a much more encouraging tone for UT as it closes in on the end of camp.
“Nobody likes to get ripped by the head coach, so that was a big thing for us,” receiver Da’Rick Rogers said. “That made us more competitive, and we were more focused.
“There’s always going to be coaching points, but I feel like he’ll say it’s way better than last week. He’ll probably say we still have a few things to work on, though.”
Dooley is unlikely to ever be totally satisfied, but he clearly was more pleased with the production and improvement the Vols put on display after they were challenged last week.
According to statistics provided by the program after the closed workout, quarterback Tyler Bray was much more efficient, running back Tauren Poole was significantly more effective and a tempo that was widely panned as sluggish was ramped up by a no-huddle attack on the opening drive that needed just six plays to produce a touchdown for Rogers. And it quickly provided Dooley with some evidence that his team has been paying attention.
“The main thing was I wanted to see a little intensity level,” Dooley said. “The intensity level was there. The mental intensity, the physicality was better. And they absolutely came out with a real aggressive mindset and got the defense on their heels. So that was a lot better.
“They went six plays, touchdown, first drive. Right down the field. No huddle and they just came out in a real aggressive manner. And Da’Rick had a big play for a touchdown. The next drive they come out, had a big play to Justin Hunter for a touchdown. So the first two drives, they set the tone.”
The Vols weren’t exactly perfect after that, but they were much closer than they were a week before.
Bray threw an interception, but he completed 17 of 30 passes for 258 yards with four touchdowns to more than offset that mistake. Poole didn’t punch in a touchdown, but he popped a 23-yard carry on the way to a total of 70 yards on 13 carries. And the receiving corps had an impressive afternoon led by Rogers, who opened the scoring with his touchdown grab early and finished with six catches for 120 yards.
How much credit goes to the faster tempo from the no-huddle approach is debatable, but it apparently was valuable enough to become a more consistent part of the game plan.
“It’s something we wanted to do more of,” Dooley said. “We didn’t do much last year just because Tyler was so new. But it’s something we want to keep building.
“There are times in the game when we need to get it going, pick it up a little bit, the tempo. And sometimes things aren’t working for you in the regular and so we want to be able to change our tempos more often.”
It needed a different look after UT had trouble just getting to the line of scrimmage and properly aligned during its only significant live action prior to Saturday. And since getting in and out of the huddle also was a problem, just eliminating it entirely was an effective short-term fix.
“I think (Saturday) when you watched them the first few drives, it’s what the expectation is going to be going forward,” Dooley said. “Our trick now is it shouldn’t take us 11 practices and a lot of screaming and ranting and raving to get it going.”
Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward.