It was only a week ago that the Tennessee defense lost the coveted orange jerseys to the offense.
And after being called "marshmallows" by head coach Butch Jones throughout the week, the defense made its presence felt during Saturday's scrimmage on Student and Faculty Appreciation Day.
"We were kind of dragging last practice, and we told everybody, 'We've got to get it. We've got to come out this practice strong with energy,'" sophomore defensive lineman Corey Vereen said after practice. "We just came out and we did it. We kept the drives going; we got off the field.
"We did a lot of good things today."
The defense's opportunity to take back their orange jerseys came in the last moments of the scrimmage when Jones gave the offense a chance to win with eight "last play of the game" scenarios.
And when it mattered most, the defense stepped up, keeping the offense out of the end zone on all eight attempts.
"We haven't had a real productive scrimmage up to our standards, but I think today was more up to our standards," junior linebacker Curt Maggitt said. "I wouldn't say it was a great day, but it was a lot better in production."
That production came from the entire unit, as the defense recorded six sacks, forced a fumble on the goal line and picked off an errant Riley Ferguson pass during the scrimmage.
"I was just dropping and reading the quarterback," sophomore linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin said of his interception. "I didn't have a man, so I was just trying to make a play and make something happen early."
Ferguson split first-team reps with senior quarterback Justin Worley under center throughout Saturday's scrimmage. Sophomores Josh Dobbs and Nathan Peterman mostly saw reps with the second unit.
The redshirt freshman signal caller bounced back after his opening pass attempt was intercepted and finished with a solid performance, throwing two touchdowns – one to sophomore wide receiver Josh Smith and the other to freshman tight end Ethan Wolf.
"I'm just trying to overcome (interceptions) and not worry about them," Ferguson said. "I need to move forward. Once it happens, you can't do anything about it because it is in the past. So I just tried to move forward and have a good rest of practice."
Each of the four signal callers threw touchdowns – Dobbs and Worley added rushing scores as well, but they also had problems continually moving the ball down the field.
And while the quarterbacks had their moments – both good and bad – Jones still believes all four guys under center need to get better before he names a starter.
"The thing I keep talking about is consistency in performance," Jones said. "To play quarterback at the University of Tennessee, we need an individual who can improvise, make plays but can take care of the football but play with a very high level of consistency.
"I thought there were too many ups and downs from the entire practice, from throwing the ball, one-on-ones, we had some windy conditions, but that is part of playing the game, that is part of playing in the elements. So we will go back and we will evaluate it.
"All four did some good things but there are also a lot of things that need to be corrected in a hurry."
Young making plays
On a day where rushing yards were hard to come by, senior running back Devrin Young made the most of his opportunities out of the backfield on Saturday.
Young was able to make a couple of big catches off of screen passes and was the only running back to find paydirt with a 12-yard touchdown run.
"Devrin Young has had a very productive spring," Jones said. "I thought Thursday was a great teaching lesson for him in terms of consistency and the fine details it takes to play winning football at the running back position. Devrin has done a great job of making plays for us out of the backfield and creating space. He's going to make the first defender miss.
"I've liked his workman-like approach, and now he's just working for a high level of consistency."
To the house
Cameron Sutton has become known for his ability to shut down receivers lined up on the other side of him, but on Saturday the Jonesboro, Ga., native flashed a little more than just coverage skills.
During a live punt drill, Sutton fielded the kick and made a few guys miss on his way to a 70-yard punt return touchdown.
The sophomore cornerback is currently fighting for a spot to be the Vols' starting punt returner once the season kicks off on Aug. 30 against Utah State.
"Cam is an individual who is really battling to be our starting punt returner," Jones said. "I'm more disappointed in our coverage lanes on the punt team – our coverage and our tackling – but it's also great to see him make a play."