The Vols' second scrimmage of the fall was today; the meaning of the results will depend on what you want them to mean. But no matter how you interpret the day, the defense turned around the fortunes of the first scrimmage and had the better time of it.
Everybody wants to talk about the quarterbacks first. (Hmm, I wonder why...) Here are the basic statlines for the quarterbacks:
- 17 of 25 for a 68% completion percentage.
- 1 TD, no INTs
- 178 yards for 7.12 YPA
- 11 of 23 for a 47.8% completion percentage.
- 2 TDs, no INTs
- 120 yards for 5.22 YPA
On the face of the stats, Crompton appeared to have the better day. Reading into reports, though, you get the feeling that he made a couple of throws that could just as easily have been intercepted as incomplete. He also had one lateral for lost yards that doesn't count against the passing numbers since it was a lateral. Stephens didn't have the best of days, either; it reflects more in his stats than Crompton's, but it's simple enough to say that it was a 'learning experience' for both quarterbacks.
Also a factor to consider is that a lot of (presumed) starters - especially defensive players - did not scrimmage as much as the other players. Eric Berry, for example, was only in for two series. Others like Dan Williams and Chris Walker were also held out, so the offensive woes came against a less-than-fully-loaded defense.
Nu'Keese Richardson threw the ball again today, as you can see in this GVX photo (opens in a new window). I understand the potential here; Nuke is so fast and dodgy that the secondary is going to want to crowd up whenever he gets the ball - a receiver can easily sneak open. My one concern is his height; a tall lineman or linebacker can make a pass play very difficult on him when it might be more makeable for a taller runner.
The running game still is the strength of the offense, though it wasn't as dominant in this scrimmage as in previous scrimmages. Hardesty saw only four carries, which belies both an attempt to keep him healthy and a need to give practice time to other players instead of him. David Oku fumbled twice, which will surely come as a shock to those who were pointing at him as evidence of Bryce Brown's imminent bust status (a mark of pessimism I still can't comprehend). All in all, they went 37 carries for 246 yards, which was a net 6.6 yards per carry. (Last year, the offense averaged over 5 yards / carry only twice - against UCLA (5.2) and against UA-Birmingham (6.5). So, even with a relatively dampened performance, the running game did better against our own defense than in any game last year.)
Yes, that last bit compared a scrimmage where both sides of the ball are still learning new systems against last year's first two live games. But qualify it however you wish, the running game will be very difficult to stop this year.
The passing game suffered partly due to the quarterback play, but also partly due to inconsistency among the receivers. Some, like Warren and Teague, did rather well. Others, like Nu'Keese, did not fare so well. I have a very difficult time gauging the receivers right now for two reasons: first, we're not used to getting detailed practice reports like this, so we're not used to knowing where the team is in their development during fall camp; second, having two quarterbacks still competing for the starting job may be beginning to affect wide receiver development. Hopefully the new staff can find their #1 guy soon so the players can begin to build around him.
It may feel a little unfair to lump offensive and defensive linemen in one section, but they're easier to discuss together than separate. The short answer is this: the defensive line owned the offensive line on passing downs and has made some progress in the running game, but still has room to grow. Gerald Williams is turning into a beast - or the right side of the offensive line is a pass-blocking nightmare. Or both. No matter how you interpret it, Williams appears to be a potential rising star for the Vols. Wes Rucker had this to say about Gerald:
Williams was in the backfield today more than most of the reserve tailbacks. Down, set, sack. Perhaps a TE or FB chipping would help.
I can live with that.
Linebackers and Secondary
Information is scant about these units at the moment, partly because Eric Berry was resting and people tend to forget about the other players in the defensive backfield. Derrick Furlow did have one nice tackle-forced-fumble hit on Marsalis Teague that was soon the subject of many nice photos on the net. The lack of interceptions does stand out a bit; with both quarterbacks having off days, it's odd that this ball-hawking secondary didn't get some picks like they have been doing all camp long.
If you find any information about the linebackers - any information - please fill us in. I think everybody's so jazzed up to watch the quarterbacks and freshmen that they're forgetting to watch other players on the field. There aren't any available linebacker reports at the time I'm writing this, and it's the unit I'm most curious about (yes, even more so than the quarterbacks).
In short, the defense had a far better scrimmage than last week. The offense made a lot of careless mistakes, including a lot of penalties. It's all part of the growing pains, and as long as the offense doesn't have days like this consistently, we'll be fine.