Tennessee's final day of practice at Milligan College
Tennessee's practice at Neyland Stadium Friday night was dubbed a "situational scrimmage," as coaches wanted players to encounter just about any situation that might occur in a real game.
They didn't leave out the worst-case scenario: An injury to starting quarterback Tyler Bray.
Bray went down Friday with a "sprained ankle," forcing backup Justin Worley onto the field for most of the scrimmage. Don't worry — Bray and his ankle are fine. But the fake "injury" gave coach Derek Dooley an opportunity to see how Worley and the offense responded to sudden adversity. Bray departed, Worley entered and the offense didn't miss a beat.
"Everybody reacted pretty well," Worley said.
Except perhaps Bray. "Tyler was like, 'Man, don't jinx me,' " according to Worley.
Worley led what Dooley called an "explosive" offense with a 229-yard passing performance. The sophomore from Rock Hill, S.C., who struggled at times last year when he was forced off the bench to replace an injured Bray, said he felt comfortable and confident in a scrimmage designed to test the quarterbacks mentally.
"You have to be on top of everything," Worley said. "We were going from two-minute to four-minute to overtime to just running our base offense. Staying sharp and being able to lead in those different situations is really key to the position me and Tyler play."
Dooley said coaches' confidence in Bray and a desire to give more reps to Worley led to Saturday's "injury."
"I thought at some point (Worley) needed to get in there with the (first team), so those guys could feel his command a little bit," Dooley said. "I think we've got two pretty good quarterbacks heading into the season. Justin needed a heavy day. He got it."
Dooley said there were some discouraging miscues on defense, but a review of film would give him more insight.
"I think we need to watch the film and see, what are the reasons?" he said. "We've got to do a better job of communication in the back end. We had some breakdowns that led to big plays."
Linebacker A.J. Johnson led the defense with 12 tackles and safety Byron Moore had two interceptions.
"(Johnson) is a real steady hand on the inside," Dooley said.
Kicker Michael Palardy hit both field goals he attempted and is now 6-for-6 in two scrimmages. Dooley said he didn't want to ruin Palardy's streak.
"I'm not going to say anything because I know how this goes," he said.
The running game didn't put up huge numbers, but junior Rajion Neal said the focus was getting tough yards against a stacked defense.
"It was just real physical today, and I think that's what the coaches really wanted to see," Neal said. "They were focusing on who could be that every-down back who could be physical between the tackles."
Dooley said the Vols will tone down the intensity as school begins next week.
After off days on Tuesday and Wednesday, the team will begin installing the game plan for North Carolina State on Thursday.
"You want to go in that first game healthy and fresh so we have a lot of recovery coming up," he said.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat
Worley 15-28-229 2 TD, 2 INT; Bray 5-12-80 1 TD; Peterman 5-8-81
Neal 8-47, 25 Long; Young 5-21 TD, 17 Long; Summerhill 3-20, 12 Long; Lane 7-19 TD, 16 Long; Hill 2-11, 6 Long; J. King 1-3; Watson 4- minus 2, 2 Long
Bowles 6-91, 25 Long; Young 1-72 TD, 72 Long; Patterson 2-42, 32 Long; Ellis 3-39, 32 Long; Carter 3-34, 21 Long; D. Rogers 1-31 TD, 31 Long; Watson 2-30 TD, 16 Long, Page 1-13; Downs 2-12, 7 Long; Drummer 1-10; Hunter 1-6; Bartholomew 1-0
Darr 4-159-39.8, 48 Long; Palardy 3-123-41.3, 47 Long
Palardy 33 Good, 41 Good; Bullock 28 WR
Johnson 3-9-12, Waggner 3-3-6, Coleman 2-3-5, G. King 2-3-5, McCullers 0-4-4, Maggitt 2-1-3, Crump 0-3-3, Toney 2-0-2, Arnold 1-1-2, Dallas 1-1-2, Gray 1-1-2, Miller 1-1-2, Randolph 1-1-2, Sentimore 1-1-2, J. Smith 1-1-2, Bohannon 0-2-2, Brewer 0-2-2, Fowlkes 0-2-2, Gordon 0-2-2, Lewis 0-2-2, O'Brien 0-2-2, Propst 0-2-2, Williams 0-2-2, Bonner 0-1-1, Clark 0-1-1, Fugate 0-1-1, Oliver 1-0-1, Orta 1-0-1, Sapp 0-1-1, Saulsberry 0-1-1, Taylor 0-1-1, Teague 0-1-1, Wilks 0-1-1
Tackles for Loss
Sentimore 1.5-6, Maggitt 1.5-4, Smith 1-5, Miller 1-1
Smith 1-5, Maggitt 1-1
Pass Break Ups
Smith 1, Gordon 1, Waggner 1, Moore 1, Oliver 1
Smith 2, Maggitt 1, Walls 1, Bohannon 1, Miller 1