Tennessee's first scrimmage is key for younger players

The first impression isn't the only one that counts.

It might be a little more important than some others though.

Tennessee's opening scrimmage of training camp Tuesday afternoon at Neyland Stadium won't provide the team with an official depth chart when it's over. But it will provide an early indication of how prepared some of its young talent might be for expanded roles, which could play a significant part in shaping what a two-deep might look like even after just one week of practice.

"It has a big impact in who we start investing our time in personnel-wise," Vols coach Derek Dooley said after practice on Monday. "Who we can start shaping the plays around? It's not just one day, it's a body of work, I've said that since I've been here, but it does carry a little more weight and we certainly want our guys who have been productive in the past to play well.

"We also need some of these young ones to go out there and say, 'Hey, coach me up. I'll be ready for the first game.' That's what we're hoping."

The Vols obviously have plenty of youthful candidates to supply that optimism, and the scrimmage setting will provide a critical, early evaluation for the coaching staff to figure out what to do with all of them.

Particularly on defense, UT has been tinkering with various players and positions for a unit currently without a single returning starter healthy in the front seven. Even a secondary stocked with options is undergoing some experimentation to find the best possible rotation, which has led to different positions for both newcomers like Byron Moore and veterans like Janzen Jackson.

The offense appears to be a bit more settled with experienced players filling up nearly every position, though competition for jobs at left guard, running back and perhaps center appear to be evolving thanks to some fresh faces on the other side of the ball as well.

"The main thing is evaluating players more than plays," Dooley said. "We have so many young guys in the two-deep right now, it's just important to see what they are going to look like compared to what they looked like in the first six practices.

"And then some of the old guys, how much different do they look compared to last year? This is a big, early evaluation of our players — it's an important evaluation."

Jonesin' To Play: Walk-on wide receiver Antonio Jones will finally be able to dress like his new teammates today.

Jones will don full pads for the first time in his UT career, as he will finally be eligible to do so after missing the first two days of practice. NCAA rules stipulate that a player must wear just a helmet and shorts during the first two practices, and a helmet-shoulder pads combination for the third and fourth.

A teammate of defensive tackle Maurice Couch at Garden City (Kan.) Community College last season, Jones was forced to sit out because his transcript didn't arrive in time, he said.

"Big relief," Jones said. "I sat right there just watching, ready to play."

Jones, who didn't play at all last season because of an injured shoulder, looks the part at 6-foot-4 and weighing 215 pounds. That's about all Dooley knows about him at this point of the preseason.

"We're glad he's here," Dooley said.

No Word Yet: Freshman defensive back Tino Thomas watched the end of practice with his left shoulder held in a sling. His status on the roster, and that of fellow shoulder-saddled freshman Geraldo Orta, remains uncertain.

Dooley said he would have an answer by the first day of classes, Aug. 17, at the latest.

If all of the 25 signees from the class of 2011 currently practicing with the team qualify and escape NCAA Clearinghouse issues, either Thomas or Orta will be forced to grayshirt the 2011 season. Under NCAA rules, the Vols are allowed to put 25 players on scholarship in a given calendar year. Because they were able to back-count to the previous season, they were able to have 26 in 2011.

Practice Report: Dooley said he complained 18 months about the drainage system at Haslam Field, which typically needed days to recover from a thunderstorm.

After $255,000 of offseason maintenance, the practice field faced its first big test when a severe storm rolled through the area at the beginning of practice.

Dooley was so pleased by the turf's performance, he mentioned it in his opening statement to reporters.

"Big progress today with the grass," Dooley said. "That was a huge. Unbelievable.

"It would be just like this and we couldn't practice. So, we stepped up big departmentally."

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Comments » 18

jjsteel writes:

squeaky hinge gets the grease

pingkr62 writes:

It's almost here, getting fired up! G.B.O.!

mdvol writes:

Usually the defense starts the season ahead of the offense but that might not be the case this time. Anxious to get the feedback on Marlin Lane. Hopeful that Bray wont throw a bunch of picks.

Vols start the season 4-0! (Georgia 0-2)

tree_em_smokey writes:

in response to mdvol:

Usually the defense starts the season ahead of the offense but that might not be the case this time. Anxious to get the feedback on Marlin Lane. Hopeful that Bray wont throw a bunch of picks.

Vols start the season 4-0! (Georgia 0-2)

Agree! We will finish no less than 8-4. Bray is the biggest concern, but if he doesn't hold up then we at least have Simms who is a returning SEC starter and capable of winning some SEC games! GBO!!!

UTbassdrummer writes:

Things are getting better. Everybody seems uncharacteristically positive. Getting pumped up.

UsoCRAZY writes:

Careful now that's just about the time it calaspses. Hate to be debbie downer but Tennessee has a history of getting tripped up if they get too starie eyed. That's why I'm kind of glad UT's not getting as much pub, that tends to be the kiss of death.

Brillovol writes:

Good size for Antonio Jones. Wonder if he's got the speed and hands to go with it?

voloffaith writes:

calaspses= Central American dancing.
starie = something ewe get if ye don't eat your veggies.

Yippee for the grass stepping up this year and draining properly.First scrimmage for youngins. How many stars in their eyes?

GerryOP writes:

25

Volunatic writes:

A little off-topic here, but I think Gribble and Ward are doing an excellent job of covering the Vols fall camp.
Props to both of them.

voloffaith writes:

in response to Volunatic:

A little off-topic here, but I think Gribble and Ward are doing an excellent job of covering the Vols fall camp.
Props to both of them.

That almost brought a tear to my eyes......almost.

MusicCityVol writes:

The young guys are going to be as critical as any Vols team in recent memory. We need Fresh and Soph's to produce in 2011.

2012 Recruiting: SEC East Report Cards
http://www.checkerboardchatter.com/20...

Volunatic writes:

in response to voloffaith:

That almost brought a tear to my eyes......almost.

Get a hold of yourself, young man. There's no time for crying during fall camp!

tennvolsman19651965 writes:

in response to UsoCRAZY:

Careful now that's just about the time it calaspses. Hate to be debbie downer but Tennessee has a history of getting tripped up if they get too starie eyed. That's why I'm kind of glad UT's not getting as much pub, that tends to be the kiss of death.

We dont have to worry about these kids knowing the history of tripping up when they get hyped! They have never been on a traditionally winning Vols team yet! I think 8-4 would be a good start though.

voloffaith writes:

in response to Volunatic:

Get a hold of yourself, young man. There's no time for crying during fall camp!

Thanks for the slap back to reality sir! Emotions can get the best of ya ya know!

Prostar writes:

in response to RockyTopRenegade:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Now that's funny right there, I don't care who you are. And God bless all the little pigmy's ....... oh, never mind.

Rockytop38 writes:

Doe anyone know how Justin Worley has looked in practice?

DennisVols writes:

Some first to consider this season;
First time in 5 seasons that UT will have the same offensive coordinator for 2 consecutive season.
First time in 4 seasons the UT will have the same defensive coordinator for 2 consecutive years.
First time in 4 seasons that UT will have the same head coach for 2 consecutive years.
There is a lot that can be said for players to have the same schemes and the same coaches in the development process. It is even more important when you do not have a lot of senior leadership available and the restrictions that the NCAA places on the amount of time you can practice as a team and the coaches can do their job as coaches.
Many of the sophomores on this team are at the junior level as far as on the field game experience considering how many of them were placed in starting positions due to lack of depth. The same can be said for the juniors having the same experience level many seniors will have in the SEC.
There will be more of the playbook opened on both sides as the returning players can now better understand the system.
While depth at certain positions is still a concern and the need to stay healthy is always vital to any successful season this team has potential and there will be improvements all the way around. Dooley showed last year he could take a team that had more things going against it then for it and still make them competitive even against many teams that did not have the issues facing UT.
This year is the first year in which there will be a level of consistent teaching, consistent schedule and consistent schemes in several years. This is an advantage that UT has not had since anyone on this team arrived at UT.
Keeping it Real
GoVols!!!

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