The Tennessee Volunteers put on a show Saturday, April 20 at the 53rd Orange and White Game. The defense was Team Orange. The offense was Team White. At the end of the day, Orange prevailed 95-71, which looks eerily similar to a regular-season game from 2012.
Vol fans came out in full force, logging the second-most attended Orange and White Game ever. Butch Jones received a booming ovation, while Vols for Life like Eric Berry, Arian Foster and Montario Hardesty could be seen doing everything from interviewing to coaching to DJing.
(That's right. Watch out for DJ A-Foster in the future.)
It was a beautiful afternoon and only served to make Tennessee more excited about its first game on August 31. Here is a summary of those who were outstanding for both good and bad reasons...
The most impressive player of the game was Corey Vereen.
He's an early enrollee, so while most of his fellow 17-year-olds are gearing up for prom Saturday night, Vereen will be hitting the showers after an excellent showing at the Orange and White Game. He racked up an incredible four sacks and five total tackles.
Keep an eye on this Florida native. The coaches have been raving about him, and he seems to be a natural at defensive end.
Another youngster that stood out was redshirt freshman Alden Hill.
He's another player the coaches are always talking about, and the validity of the compliments were confirmed Saturday. Already a very strong runner, Hill is much slimmer than I thought he was, helping his speed. With 18 carries for 101 yards, Hill is clearly not a lumbering runner.
He will be needed with such a thin running back corps, especially with recent disciplinary issues with Marlin Lane.
There is a quarterback competition for the 2013 starting spot for the Vols. Everyone is entitled to a bad day, but Nathan Peterman's Orange and White Game was really bad. Justin Worley is the clear leader right now.
Peterman completed just nine of his 23 pass attempts for a 39 completion percentage. He never found the end zone and was sacked an unacceptable six times.
Sure, when Peterman isn't wearing the red jersey and is able to run, maybe that won't happen, but he needs to find his play sooner and deliver the ball quicker regardless. When compared to Worley's eight of 18 (admittedly, nothing to brag about), one touchdown and one sack day, it's clear that Peterman lost out.
This was Smokey X's debut at a major Tennessee Volunteers football event. He was spectacular, as you might imagine!
Succeeding up the valiant but win-starved Smokey IX, the newest Bluetick Coonhound had to have been pleased with the Orange and White Game he saw. He'll hope to amass a record similar to Smokey VIII, who is the winningest Tennessee canine of all time at 91-22.
One sign of good things to come: A trainer of his told me he'd already gotten loose Saturday morning. Smokey was looking for a Gator, if you ask me...
During the first quarter, I turned to my father and said, "We're clearly lacking playmaking wide receivers." It was evident that quickly.
A wide receiving corps doesn't improve after losing two first-rounders like Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter, but to need an X-factor as badly as they currently do is disconcerting. Besides long catches by Vincent Dallas and Blanc, the receivers were virtually nonexistent.
Tennessee's wide receivers are talented but young. They need a leader and need some swagger in their step.
With Pig Howard, Jason Croom, Drae Bowles, Devrin Young, Paul Harris, Cody Blanc and Dallas on the roster, not to mention the future summer additions of MarQuez North, Ryan Jenkins and Josh Smith, I've no doubt whatsoever the Volunteers receivers will find their rhythm.
But how long will it take?
Brian Randolph went down midseason in 2012 with a torn ACL. He and fellow safety Byron Moore were starting to build terrific chemistry and were molding into one of the country's best safety duos.
He's back, folks. With a beautiful interception and return of more than 30 yards, you might've gotten him confused with former great Eric Berry, who was in attendance.
Later in the afternoon, he made a strong tackle for a loss when he stopped the shifty Howard on a short pass. Randolph appears to have moved on physically and mentally from the injury.
I believe Randolph and Moore will be the SEC's most effective safety pairing.
Also coming back from 2012 is Michael Palardy, though not from injury. Palardy has had his fair share of troubles on Rocky Top.
He lost the starting job to Derrick Brodus only to win it back then only to be embarrassed by one of the worst fake punt calls in the history of football at Vanderbilt; you have to wonder how his confidence is.
Apparently, his confidence is fine. Palardy was 3-of-3 for field goals, with kicks of 36, 42 and 52 sailing through. He also added numerous booming punts that had tight spirals and plenty of control.
Of course, this wasn't a real game, and the defense wasn't even on the field for punts. But you couldn't have asked for more.
To those who wanted to make it but couldn't, you're off the hook. But to those who could've but decided not to, you really missed out! Make it a priority to go next year—this team is working to earn your support.
I was proud to be a part of the second-largest Orange and White Game crowd since the scrimmage's inception in 1961. During the second half, Neyland Stadium reported that 61,076 fans came to see the game, the most in nearly 30 years.
It's clear that the Volunteer fanbase wants a winner and believes it has found one. Butch Jones is bringing the program up-to-date and is pushing it forward on the practice field and recruiting trail.
What a game! Only 133 days until the next one...