Tennessee Football: Defense Shines in Volunteers' First Scrimmage

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Tennessee Football: Defense Shines in Volunteers' First Scrimmage
As could be expected, the defense was ahead of the offense Saturday during the first full scrimmage of spring practice for Tennessee.

The outcome was not unexpected by Vol coach Phillip Fulmer.

"We're keeping it real basic right now,'' said Fulmer. "We only have around half of the offense inserted right now. At this point, it's more about players than it is plays.''

"The first scrimmage is always the roughest,'' said No. 1 quarterback Jonathan Crompton, who finished 7-for-15 with a TD pass to tight end Luke Stocker of 7 yards and an interception that was picked off by safety Demetrice Morley and returned 23 yards. "We're (QBs and receivers) watching a lot of film together and learned where we are supposed to throw or where the receivers are supposed to be. I have thrown out last year's playbook so I don't accidentally use some of the terminology we used. I think I've picked up the new offense pretty well. I know the terminology pretty well. Having veteran receivers helps.''

The Vol offense is adjusting to a new offense put in by new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson.

"I think we're right on course,'' said Clawson, "with our initial installation. We were going to insert a two tight-end formation, but then we lost Jeff Cottam and then today David Holbert, so we will probably have to move away from that. We went to a lot of three-receiver sets today out of necessity.''

Cottam was lost of the spring with a broken leg on Thursday, while Holbert suffered an apparently serious knee injury in Saturday's scrimmage. He will be evaluated, but he seems almost definitely out for the spring and could miss another season of play due to the injurty. He missed last season with a torn ACL. He had his knee twisted the wrong way on a hit by linebacker Rico McCoy.

"It's just unfortunate that it happened,'' said Fulmer. "David, bless his heart, has had the hardest time with all the injuries. It was a good clean tough hit, and that’s just a part of football. You hate to see it with anybody but especially a senior that’s fought through what he’s fought through to get back. He said he couldn't believe it. It was like a bad dream.”

Fulmer said it was hard to assess the quarterbacks without seeing the film.

B.J. Coleman had the best numbers, going 9-for-16 for 95 yards, while Nick Stephens was 5-for-8 for 54 yards.

“I need to see the tape,” Fulmer said. “I don’t know that it was a fantastic day. Nick Stephens led a couple of long drives. There was nothing necessarily outstanding nor particularly displeasing in what I saw.”

"Coach Clawson is doing a great job of teaching us,'' said Coleman, a red-shirt freshman from Chattanooga who is No. 3 on the depth chart behind Crompton and Stephens. "We're learning it step-by-step. You have to be patient and make sure you don't overlook anything.''

Coleman said having veteran receivers like Josh Briscoe and Austin Rogers helps.

Briscoe led with 5 catches for 83 yards, including a 48-yarder from Coleman. Gerald Jones also had 5 catches for 25 yards and Quinton Hancock 3 for 26 yards.

The defense shut down the running game. Red-shirt freshman Daryl Vereen led with 20 yards on 9 carries. Montario Hardesty had 17 yards on 5 carries and Lennon Creer 14 yards on 8 carries. Kevin Cooper scored on a two-yard run -- the only TD of the scrimmage other than Crompton's TD pass to Stocker.

Dan Williams batted down three passes.

“Dan made a couple of fantastic plays today,” Fulmer said. “He batted some balls down, but that also means he isn’t getting close to the quarterback. We don’t want to get in the habit of jumping in the air at the line of scrimmage. We have to rush the passer better.”

Donald Langley, who redshirted last year, led the defense with five tackles, including one for loss. Anthony Anderson, a redshirt freshman defensive back from Knoxville, had five tackles, and Williams, linebacker Nick Reveiz, freshman DB C.J. Fleming and sophomore LB LaMarcus Thompson had four stops each.

“There are a lot of guys that can fly around and make plays,'' said Fulmer of the defensive backfield. "You can see the difference; it’s night and day. There are no big balls given up and they’re breaking on the football. They are really playing well right now.”

Fulmer said the loss of linebacker Nevin McKenzie is a blow, but said it does not seem to be any more than just a spring.

Chad Cunningham had three punts for an average of 43 yards. Cunningham, or someone else, will have to punt for the Vols while Britton Colquitt sits out a five-game suspension to start the season.

Daniel Lincoln looked sharp on field goals, making 6 of 7. The only one he missed was blocked by safety Eric Berry.

The Vols will have some scrimmage work on both Tuesday and Thursday, but the next major scrimmage will be next Saturday.

Here are full stats from Saturday's scrimmage:

Tennessee Scrimmage Stats – March 29, 2008

Rushing Leaders (Att.-Yds.-TD)
Daryl Vereen 9-20-0; Montario Hardesty 5-17-0; Lennon Creer 8-14-0; Kevin Cooper 2-2-1.

Passing Leaders (Att.-Comp.-Int.-Yds.-TD)
Jonathan Crompton 7-15-1-55-1; B.J. Coleman 9-16-0-95-0; Nick Stephens 5-8-0-54-0.

Receiving Leaders (No.-Yds.-TD)
Josh Briscoe 5-83-0; Quinton Hancock 3-26-0; Gerald Jones 5-25-0; Denarius Moore 2-19-0; Ryan Hill 2-8-0; Luke Stocker 1-7-1.

Defensive Leaders
Donald Langley 5 tackles, 1 TFL (-3); Anthony Anderson 5 tackles; Dan Williams 4 tackles, 1 TFL (-2), 3 PBU; Nick Reveiz 4 tackles; C.J. Fleming 4 tackles; LaMarcus Thompson 4 tackles; Demetrice Morley 3 tackles, 1 sack (-6), 1 interception (23 yds.); DeAngelo Willingham 3 tackles; Savion Frazier 3 tackles; Andre Mathis 3 tackles, 1 TFL (-1); Tyler Wolfe 3 tackles; Adam Myers-White 2 tackles, 1 TFL (-1); Eric Berry 1 tackle, 1 PBU, 1 blocked field goal; Chase Nelson 1 tackle, 1 TFL (-3); Demonte Bolden 1 sack (-10).

Punting Leaders (No.-Avg.-Long)
Chad Cunningham 4-43.0-45.

Field Goal Leaders (Made-Att.-Long)
Daniel Lincoln 6-7-44; Devin Mathis 9-15-43.

Offensive Starters: Tackles Chris Scott and Ramon Foster, guards Vladimir Richard and Jacques McClendon, center Anthony Parker, quarterback Jonathan Crompton, wide receivers Austin Rogers and Josh Briscoe, tight end Luke Stocker, fullback Kevin Cooper, tailback Montario Hardesty.

Defensive Starters: Tackles Dan Williams and Walter Fisher, ends Robert Ayres and Wes Brown, linebackers Rico McCoy, Ellix Wilson and Adam Myers-White, cornerbacks Dennis Rogan and DeAngelo Willingham, safeties Eric Berry and Demetrice Morley.
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