Vols' defense backs up talk with big performance in scrimmage

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL
Tennessee defensive lineman Jordan Williams sacks quarterback Nathan Peterman during a scrimmage Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL Tennessee defensive lineman Jordan Williams sacks quarterback Nathan Peterman during a scrimmage Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

UT football scrimmage on Saturday at Neyland Stadium

Defensive players and coaches could smile and cheer about Saturday’s resounding scrimmage victory at Neyland Stadium, but for head coach Butch Jones, any optimism about one unit is always tempered by concern about the other.

“It’s different when you’re the head coach,” he said. “You want the offense to do well and you want the defense to do well.”

On Saturday, the defense did very well, pressuring the quarterbacks, winning the battle at the line of scrimmage and keeping the offense from finding any rhythm by registering a long run of three-and-outs.

The final score was Defense 86, Offense 63. Unlike two weeks ago — when the point system sometimes seemed gerrymandered by the coaches — the result on the scoreboard was an accurate reflection of what took place on the field.

On Friday night, senior defensive back and team Twitter humorist Byron Moore did some mild trash-talking to offensive coaches, saying Neyland Stadium would be a “no-fly zone” for the Vols’ offense.

The defense backed up that talk, as there were few pass plays of any significance and neither junior quarterback Justin Worley nor redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman looked particularly sharp.

But Jones said he was just as pleased with the front seven as he was the secondary, particularly a linebacking corps that he challenged to be more productive.

Junior A.J. Johnson had a couple of loud hits and Jones raved about senior Dontavis Sapp, who is fighting for serious playing time this year after spending much of his career as a role player.

“He’s been amazing,” Jones said. “He’s done everything right. He’s been a joy to coach so far.”

The defense, among the nation’s worst in 2012, has been in need of some good news. Senior defensive lineman Daniel Hood said Saturday’s scrimmage affirmed that the Vols are better than they showed a year ago.

“It’s a big confidence boost just to know we’re able to go out there and shut down offenses and beat an offense like ours,” Hood said. “Although we lost some players, it’s still the same talent there. So it’s good to go out there and prove we can play.”

Hood said new defensive coordinator John Jancek tore down the defense to its simplest level on the first day of spring, and has started building it up from there.

“Coach Jancek has done a great job of simplifying things down for us, making it so we can play faster, know what we’re doing, and be efficient,” Hood said.

Jones said he could see some of that “instinctualness” in the scrimmage, with defenders playing fast and racing to the ball.

“Vol piles,” Jones’ term for the swarm of defenders around a ball carrier, were frequent on Saturday.

While the defensive play was heartening, the offense left Jones wanting more. He said he wanted to see someone take “ownership” during the last two weeks of spring.

As for the hunt for “playmakers,” which offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian said would be the primary goal of the scrimmage, Jones could offer only a few.

Redshirt freshman receiver Jason Croom has played well, Jones said, and sophomore Alton “Pig” Howard could be a factor if he continues to progress “mentally and physically.”

But as a whole, Jones said, “Our receivers are not what we expect at all in our offense.”

The head coach also wants the running backs to “trust their eyes.” Jones yanked one back for head-down running. He even took a playful shot at the first-team offensive line, which most consider the strength of the team. After one sack, Jones yelled into his mic at the group of future NFL draft picks, “Where’s that high-priced O-line?”

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

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Comments » 25

chaos001 writes:

It's neither/nor, Woodberry. Grammar check your copy.

iowavol writes:

Vol Pile - I like it. I think this will stick. Would like a little better news about the receivers. I'm sure that's the crux of lackluster quarterback play.

BruisedOrange writes:

Would not be good if O had beaten the D this early.

Baby steps in cleats. Can't truly know anything before the season starts... but feelin' better about this team.

dvhill100 writes:

Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will the UT football team. I like what I see so far. It is always a task when one side outshines the other - is one side that much better or is the other side that much worse? Inquiring minds want to know.

Snapshot writes:

in response to chaos001:

It's neither/nor, Woodberry. Grammar check your copy.

Really, you are critiquing the grammar on a sports site? Whatever.

ewoodbery writes:

in response to chaos001:

It's neither/nor, Woodberry. Grammar check your copy.

Thanks, got it fixed.

And it's Woodbery.

-- Evan

TitanandVolfan4life writes:

D always is better at first so this is normal.

It's a complete new O so it takes longer to learn everything with the shifts, sets, faster pace, ect.

It's going to take bUTch and company 3 or 4 years to really get things going like we all want and expect but the recruiting is already getting better so our talent level is headed back up nicely next year and as long as recruiting keeps going well and the kids keep learning we will be taking steps back UP to where we belong every year from now on.

This is the best rebuilding beginning we've seen in 5 years or longer so I'm motivated by what I see happening in such a short amount of time.

VFL...GBO!!!

Geofffourmyle writes:

"Vol pile" is about as euphonious as "Cow pie."

"Host of Volunteers" still has a nice ring to it.

Walt

UT '81

kd45music writes:

I just want to see som intensity and heart from the team thi year. With CBJ leading the way, I expect to see lots of vol piles this fall.

hikerdude writes:

Its early and we don't have a lot to go on. And, we have new quarterbacks and a new offensive scheme. But, my guess is that the defense will be much improved this fall. Sunseri and Dooley were not very good defensive coaches; actually they were unbelievably bad. I felt sorry for the kids. Most of the time they were put in totally impossible situations. The new staff will do a much better job coaching to the talents that the kids have.

volgrog#210164 writes:

in response to Geofffourmyle:

"Vol pile" is about as euphonious as "Cow pie."

"Host of Volunteers" still has a nice ring to it.

Walt

UT '81

Agreed,
To quote the best play-by-play guy ever, "Met first by Wilson, then a host of volunteers," although if Wilson met them first, it usually didn't require a "host".

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to Geofffourmyle:

"Vol pile" is about as euphonious as "Cow pie."

"Host of Volunteers" still has a nice ring to it.

Walt

UT '81

Agreed, you are akin to a cow-pile..

ReeseHallRelic writes:

in response to ewoodbery:

Thanks, got it fixed.

And it's Woodbery.

-- Evan

Touche.... well played!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Geofffourmyle:

"Vol pile" is about as euphonious as "Cow pie."

"Host of Volunteers" still has a nice ring to it.

Walt

UT '81

Yeah, I think I'm with you on this one. "A rose by any other name..." and all that, but still....

6972 writes:

Defensive line was out shining O Line. Is that a little troublesome since that is supposed to be the strength of the team? Receivers have got to step up to the plate. If we can'throw, we will not be able to run in the SEC. Good luck Orange.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to 6972:

Defensive line was out shining O Line. Is that a little troublesome since that is supposed to be the strength of the team? Receivers have got to step up to the plate. If we can'throw, we will not be able to run in the SEC. Good luck Orange.

That's true, but I kind of think it's not so much the O-line getting worse compared to the improvement of the D-line..Regardless, it's like golf, one day your killing your drives and your middle irons are horrendous..It seems like you never get the whole game to come together in a single round of golf, and Spring fb seems to be a lot like that, peaks & valleys..

Olddogsrule writes:

Walt, Walt, Walt ...
Yer showin' yer age ...
Euphonious wuz that gal in the magical stories by Harry Potter!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

That's true, but I kind of think it's not so much the O-line getting worse compared to the improvement of the D-line..Regardless, it's like golf, one day your killing your drives and your middle irons are horrendous..It seems like you never get the whole game to come together in a single round of golf, and Spring fb seems to be a lot like that, peaks & valleys..

Gotta say, any day my irons AREN'T horrendous is a good one for me, but your point is well taken. The defense is often ahead of the offense at this time in the spring, but considering that the O-line was pretty good last year and the defense was terrible, it is somewhat surprising that the traditional form should be holding this spring. No question there is still lots to fix on both sides of the ball, but I think everybody is going about it in the right way.

chipmurphy461 writes:

I hope the kicking game is dramatically improved/ing

ncvol17 writes:

Hmmm, maybe I should have waited a couple of years b4 getting season tickets.....

johnlg00 writes:

in response to ncvol17:

Hmmm, maybe I should have waited a couple of years b4 getting season tickets.....

Look at it this way. When the bandwagon starts to fill up, you will already have your comfy seat! If it turns out not to be such a good deal, then even if you don't get anything for them, just giving them up will be like giving yourself a little pay raise. Looks like a win-win situation to me!

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to ewoodbery:

Thanks, got it fixed.

And it's Woodbery.

-- Evan

Lol awesome

golfman1975 writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

That's true, but I kind of think it's not so much the O-line getting worse compared to the improvement of the D-line..Regardless, it's like golf, one day your killing your drives and your middle irons are horrendous..It seems like you never get the whole game to come together in a single round of golf, and Spring fb seems to be a lot like that, peaks & valleys..

Good analogy! FORE! Look forward to the day when Bama is nothing but a smooth wedge.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to golfman1975:

Good analogy! FORE! Look forward to the day when Bama is nothing but a smooth wedge.

No doubt, unfortunately playing them is about as much fun as hitting a one iron..

VolsFan82 writes:

in response to chipmurphy461:

I hope the kicking game is dramatically improved/ing

Given how high of a standard CBJ is holding the players and coaching staff to and the fact that he's working personally with every personnel group I'm sure our kicking game will be much better than last year. We'll get a sneak peak on April 20 @ the orange and white game. GBO!

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