The Tennessee football team held its second spring scrimmage Saturday morning, giving the Vol's four quarterbacks another opportunity to stand out in Neyland Stadium.
All four quarterbacks competing for the starting job had their ups and downs, but overall head coach Butch Jones was pleased with the improvement he's seen from his signal callers.
"I see that position overall continuing to get better and better," Jones said. "I've really been pleased so far with the play of all four quarterbacks, and I think we have a great competitive battle going there. All four of these individuals are improving every day."
Senior Justin Worley had the most consistent day, throwing long touchdown passes to receivers Jason Croom and Josh Malone. He was not perfect, though, as he threw a pick six to safety Max Arnold in a goal to go situation.
Redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson continued his productive spring, orchestrating several successful touchdown drives on the day. His one hiccup came in an overtime situation when an ill-advised throw was intercepted by sophomore defensive back Malik Foreman.
"It happens sometimes," Ferguson said. "It was a bad decision, and in overtime we're thinking touchdown or check down. I should have got down to the check down and just moved on to try and get points."
Mistakes are going to happen in spring practice, but right now the coaching staff is just looking to make sure those mistakes get corrected and the players learn from them.
"Every play is a teaching opportunity," Jones said. "A lot of times when you're correcting one individual, you're correcting the entire football team. So that was a great teaching opportunity for that moment in time, not just for Riley but for the entire quarterback position."
Less than two weeks away from the Orange and White game, the quarterback position is as open as ever, with all four guys having a legitimate shot to win the starting job.
The quarterbacks themselves don't even know when they will be getting their reps. The coaches want to keep them on their toes, and make sure they always have their heads in the game.
"That just makes sure we're all just paying attention all around the huddle," Ferguson said. "They just want us to get mental reps, so that's just something we have to do."
Win the trenches
The SEC is a line of scrimmage league, and to win in the conference that boasts numerous national championship contenders, teams must be able to run the ball.
That's exactly what Tennessee did Saturday, as the Vols' offensive line dominated the trenches.
The Vols ran a lot of goal line situation, and the offensive line clearly got the best of the young Volunteer defense.
"When they put the ball on the five-yard line, the offensive line moved the defensive line pretty well," Worley said. "So I thought it was a pretty good day overall."
Consistency has been the biggest problem for an offensive line that is replacing all five starters from last year's team. But while they had a good day Saturday, the key now is to continue to build off this performance.
In spring practice things often change from one day to the next, so the coaches aren't too worried with the subpar performance of their defensive line in Saturday's scrimmage.
"It's a typical spring," Jones said. "One day the defense may have the upper hand, that's just what happens during spring. They are great teaching opportunities. One side of the ball usually performs better than the other, and that's what competition is about."
Running backs continue to improve
Replacing your leading rusher is never an easy thing to do, but the addition of highly-touted freshman Jalen Hurd has given the run game a huge boost.
With senior Marlin Lane hampered with a wrist injury, Hurd has continued to get large amounts of reps, and he is making the most of the extra carries.
"He just continues to develop," Jones said. "And he just needs as many reps as he can, so that was extremely productive for us."
Lane missed the first scrimmage due to injury, but he was able to play Saturday with a cast on his wrist. He broke several big runs, but more importantly, he ran low and hard, often dragging multiple defenders to gain extra yards.
Senior Devrin Young made the move back to running back at the beginning of the spring, after spending all of last year playing wide receiver. He continues to be dangerous with the ball in his hands, and was rarely brought down when he had the ball in the open field, scoring multiple touchdowns.
"Devrin Young has put together three very solid practices after returning from spring break," Jones said. "He's a playmaker, and we're going to do different things to create space for him and give him the football. Every time he's touched the ball for us in space, he's been able to make something happen."