(Photo by Mitch Jones)
Marlin Lane ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Orange to a 17-14 victory over the White in Tennessee's spring game. As usual, the Orange and White game was a lot of fun for both players and fans, but as we've seen from past spring games (Jonathan Crompton is a leader! Tyler Bray went 5 for 30!), don't give fans a lot of meaningful insight into how the team will look in the fall.
The Vols largely pitted the first team offense against the first team defense, with Marlin Lane, Darrington Sentimore, and Prentiss Waggner providing the exceptions, all playing with the second team. And it was Marlin Lane against the second team defense that gave the Orange team the edge. His speed advantage over the entire defense was obvious, and he added a couple of broken tackles on his way to averaging 11.8 yards per carry. He had 106 yards on the ground on nine carries, 32 receiving on three catches, and 93 on three kick returns, including a 43-yard return to open the game. A toss sweep taken 19 yards into the checkerboards opened up the scoring, and a 39-yard draw as the first half was winding down gave the Orange their second and final touchdown.
The next three running backs on the depth chart had similar performances, with Rajion Neal, Devrin Young, Tom Smith all averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Neal and Smith each had 49 yards on ten carries, and Young had 39 on eight. Neal and Young got their yards against the first team defense, while Smith ran against the second team. Young again showed a quickness unique on the Tennessee roster--if Tennessee can get him the ball in space, he can contribute.
With Justin Hunter missing the game with injury and Cordarrelle Patterson, Drae Bowles, Pig Howard, and Jason Croom not arriving until fall, the depth wide receivers got to show what they could do, and Cody Blanc and Jacob Carter rose to the occasion. Blanc, who like Jarnell Stokes should still be a senior in high school, made three tough catches for 32 yards against the first team defense, including one tiptoeing along the sideline to convert a 4th down. Carter, a sophomore walk-on who spent last season on the practice squad, made six catches for 42 yards against the second team defense. Carter showed tremendous hands and could contribute if he could prove himself able to get open against SEC defenses. Neither figure to be in the rotation come fall, and Blanc may well be moved to safety, but they both had excellent days in April.
On the other hand, Vincent Dallas, the only remaining wideout from the 2011 recruiting class, was overshadowed and will need to show something if he wants to work his way into the rotation. Da'Rick Rogers, of course, was not, and he burned freshman corner Justin Coleman for a 51 yard catch that set up the White team's first touchdown, but he ended a later White drive with a red zone fumble.
Tyler Bray improved on last year's spring game, going 14 of 26 for 157 yards and a touchdown to Mychal Rivera, but failed to get the White team in scoring position in the fourth quarter with a steak dinner on the line. But he reminded everyone of his ability with a perfect strike off his back foot to Blanc for a first half 4th down conversion. Quarterbacking the Orange, Justin Worley went 17 of 26 and looked solid finding running backs and tight ends, but an ugly interception to John Propst marred an otherwise fine outing.
On defense, freshman safety Brian Randolph demanded to be noticed, finishing with four tackles, one for loss, and a recovered fumble. Additionally, Willie Bohannon provided the speed rush the Orange needed to keep Bray and Company off the scoreboard late in the game. With the White at midfield, Bohannon exploded past Antonio Richardson and drew a holding penalty, then blew by Richardson again on 2nd and 20 to record the Orange's only sack.
In a familiar, but depressing, turn of events, the Vol special teams again left something to be desired. Starting kicker Michael Palardy missing his only field goal attempt, badly shanking a 32 yard effort, and one of his extra point tries was partially blocked against a defense that wasn't allowed to rush the kicker. Derrick Brodus went 1 for 2, hitting from 37 and missing from 27.