I just got in from the Orange and White game and I am pumped about next season.
The Offense (White Team) came out firing on all cylinders, with all three quarterbacks looking decent. The offense scored almost at will, with the exception of Crompton's 1st half interception. The caveat for those thinking that UT's offense has turned a corner is that Eric Berry, the most dangerous man in college football, watched the game in a jersey and sweats. The following is a position-by-position breakdown of the 2009 Orange and White Game. (Early enrollees underlined, players entering in the fall in italics)
QB: In my opinion, BJ Coleman won the quarterback competition with his performance today. He made some questionable decisions, like tucking the ball and running instead of looking downfield in the first half, but he also didn't throw a pick, like Crompton did, and like Stephens tried to do (twice). Coleman made plays with his arm, with several pinpoint throws, and his feet, evading a defender on a bootleg near the endzone and rifling the ball to an open in the corner of the endzone. He underthrew a few balls, but he handled himself very well, bouncing back to complete passes. Nick Stephens was the wild card, appearing poised and accurate at times, but holding on to the ball too long, taking sacks, and making poor throws at others. I think the position is a push, but I give Coleman the edge based on his performance today. Projected Starter: Coleman Back-up: Stephens, Crompton Fall Surprise: Mike Rozier
RB: This position will be one of strength if today was any indication. Monatario Hardesty didn't stand out much, but still managed to punch the ball for the first touchdown of the game. Taureen Poole had some nice runs, but the satr of the running game today was Toney Williams. Williams, an early enrollee out of Alpharetta, GA, wowed the Orange-and-White-clad crowd with his powerful running style. Several times he bowled over defenders, at one point breaking off a rumbling 25 yard run across midfield. He also showed ability to operate in space, atking a swing pass for 10 yards. The coaching staff showed a love for the single back formation, and utilized the fullbakcs primarily as blocking backs, although Austin Johnson made a nice shoe string catch in a goal-line situation. Projected Starters: HB-Bryce Brown/Hardesty, FB-Johnson Back-ups: Williams, Poole, David Oku Fall Surprise: Brown/Oku
WR: The White team mainly relied on short to intermediate throws, using the play action pass and the bootleg to keep the defense honest. Quintin Hancock proved that his Most Improved Award for the spring was well earned, catching 8 balls for nearly 100 yards and a touchdown from BJ Coleman. Gerald Jones was not much of a presence, but I think that is mostly due to the reliance on the crossing routes and lack of deep balls thrown. Brandon Warren was one of the more impressive receivers on the day, making several difficult catches and scoring twice, once each from Stephens and Coleman. Denarius Moore madea catch that I thought was sure to make SportsCenter's top ten play, fighting a defender for the ball, then tipping it up, and, without taking his eyes from the ball, dove to snatch the ball from just above the ground for a big first down. Overall, Warren showed me that the move to WR was not a mistake, as he used his size to out-jump defenders and shield the ball from them throughout the game. Projected Starters: Jones, Hancock, Warren Back-ups: NuKeese Richardson, Moore, Austin Rogers, Tyler Maples, Ahmad Paige Fall Surprise: Richardson
TE: Due to Jeff Cottam's injury, the Back-ups got good looks, totaling 10 catches for 112 yards between Luke Stocker, Ben Bartholomew, Ben Lehning, and Jeremy Jester Projected Starter: Cottam/Stocker Back-up: Lehning Fall Surprise: Jester
OL: The offensive line has been jus that so far this spring, offensive. Today, however, they managed to hold together and only allow 4 hurries and two (two-hand touch) sacks. The quarterbacks did not see a lot of pressure, and were able to stay in the pocket as long as they needed for most of the day. The run blocking was hit-or-miss, but the same time, Monte Kiffin brought 8 into the box for most of the game, daring his son to win by throwing the ball. Overall, a good showing from a unit that has taken a lot of abuse this year. Fall Surprise: Jerquari Scofield
DL: The defensive line played a decent game today, as it did not bite too hard on the play action fakes and misdirection plays. However, they did have some trouble with the inside zone running plays, and didn't get after the quarterback as much as I would have liked. Chris Walker continued his outstanding spring, with 4 tackles and a sack. Dan Williams got after the quarterback as well, and early enrollee Montori Hughes also showed up with 4 tackles. This unit managed to stuff the short running game, allowing only 2 of 6 conversions on short-yardage downs. Projected Starters: DE-Walker, Ben Martin DT-Williams, Hughes Back-ups: Rae Sykes, Willie Bohanon, Gerald Williams, Victor Thomas, Wes Brown Fall Surprise: Skyes
LB: Rico McCoy has been good all spring, and he continued his solid play today, leading the team with 11 tackles. LaMarcus Thompson did well, as did the Reveiz brothers, but my out-of-nowhere pick has to be Savion Frazier. He stayed quiet for a while, but in the second half, it seemed like his name was called out every other play. He could push to start this year at a relatively weak LB position. Nigel Mitchell-Thornton, an early enrollee, forced a fumble with a wicked hit on Tyler Maples, but it went flying out of bounds Projected Starters: McCoy, Thompson, Nick Reveiz Back-ups: Shane Reveiz, Frazier, Chris Donald, Mitchell-Thornton
CB: The corners played decently today, netting a few pass delfections and displaying some tight coverage, but they also allowed receivers to get open down the field. Luckily for them, this happened with Crompton or Stephens at QB, so little or no harm came of it. Dennis Rogan laid some guys out, and CJ Fleming displayed an ability to tackle. Overall, not a great performance, but without Eric Berry, they were left on an island quite a bit. Projected Starters: Rogan, Fleming/Marsalous Johnson Back-ups: Art Evans, Brent Vinson, Janzen Jackson, Eric Gordon
S: No one is Eric Berry, but these guys did an alright job today. Derrick Furlow had quite a day, totaling 8 tackles, good for second on the team. Rod Wilks did a decent job replacing Berry today, but he spent most of his time creeping up to stop the run. The other back-ups were average, but they managed to bend-but-not-break today without their star player. Projected Starter: Berry, Waggner/ Darren Miles, Jr. Back-ups: Wilks, Furlow Fall Surprise: Marsalis Teague/ Nyshier Oliver
PK: Daniel Lincoln is the incumbent, and he only had one chance today, but he missed a 30-yarder! His back-up, Ethan Ingham nailed a 44-yarder and a 32-yard chip shot. Projected Starter: Ingham Back-up: Lincoln
P: Chad Cunningham was the only punter to see action to day, and he didn't disappoint, with great hang time and length on his two punts. His touchback in the second half might have been downed if the ball were played as live.
KR/PR: As no punts were returned, it's hard to say, but I'd expect either Oku or Richardson to steal the job , at least by mid-season. Moore had a couple of good reutrns. Projected Starter: KR-Jones, Moore/Oku, PR-Richardson Back-ups: Teague, Rogan, Brown
Overall, it was a very enjotable game, and a great start for the Volunteer faithful. Go Vols!!!