JOHNSON CITY — Saturday was a great day for knocking off a liquor store in these parts.
Johnson City's finest were preoccupied elsewhere, making sure no one got too close of a peek at the Tennessee football team as it scrimmaged at Science Hill High School.
One city policeman patrolled the streets. Another manned his squad car in the parking lot. Another was on foot.
And I won't even guess how many security guards might have been working undercover.
Volunteers from nearby Milligan College provided additional security. They were distinguished from the professionals in that they were wearing green shirts and presumably not packing.
Our nuclear facilities should be as well fortified. No 82-year-old nun was penetrating this force. If Y-12 were as secure, we'd all feel a lot safer.
But don't get the wrong idea. You still could watch the Vols at work.
You just had to watch them from a distance.
About a football field's length from the playing field, a 100-or-so UT fans gathered atop a hill, determined to get an early, though faraway view, of their favorite team.
A few had lawn chairs. Another sat on a beach towel. Some sat on the
hoods of cars and trucks.
Several were dressed for the occasion.
"It Is On" read one orange T-shirt. "Stay Victorious," read another. A more creative — though inappropriate for a family newspaper — T-shirt message was aimed at the Florida Gators.
The serious fans were distinguished from the others by binoculars, which made the scrimmage as viewable as a game from the upper deck of Neyland Stadium.
Jerry Buckles, a 1976 UT graduate, rarely lowered his binoculars below eye level during the two-hour scrimmage. A few feet away, brothers Darrin and Eric Rowe watched just as intently.
They know their Vols.
When wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers made a noteworthy catch a football field away, they immediately wondered aloud if he would talk trash to his defenders.
"Look, he's dancing," one said. Everybody else laughed.
It was a good time on this particular hill at Science Hill, where you could see reminders of last season as well as evidence as to why this team could be much better.
There were a couple of errant center snaps from the shotgun formation. Remember those? No. 3 quarterback Nathan Peterman mishandled another snap under center.
Quarterback Tyler Bray took advantage of good blocking to throw effectively (18-for-31 for 189 yards) and extended a couple of plays with scrambles.
Even from our distant perch, we knew running back Rajion Neal was the star of the scrimmage before statistics were made available. Neal flashed his speed and cutting ability in rushing for 134 yards on nine carries.
Neal's 68-yard touchdown run was the highlight of the scrimmage from my vantage point, but he was running toward our hill. Freshman Quenshaun Watson's 61-yard touchdown run went the other way, and the last third of it was blocked by the corner of a building.
Freshman Justin King was a more surprising sight with the ball in his arms. Just after being moved from linebacker to tight end, the former high school quarterback lined up at quarterback in the Wildcat formation.
Junior college transfer Daniel McCullers also stuck out — for obvious reasons. His size (6-foot-6, 362 at last report) has been a topic of conversation since he was signed. In preseason camp, how he has played has warranted as much attention as how big he is.
"He's a force to move," backup quarterback Justin Worley said. "It takes two or three guys to get him out of a hole.
"Our guys are getting a little frustrated trying to block him. He's a great asset to our defensive front."
I couldn't confirm that assessment from where I sat. But even 100 yards away, I didn't need binoculars to identify McCullers.