The defense (yes, we have a defense; who knew?) got the best of the offense during Saturday's scrimmage, and the secondary (yes, we have a secondary), led by Byron Moore, was largely responsible for holding the passing game to few plays of any significance. Moore calls that a 'no-fly zone," which is cool if we can do it consistently.
So what's the difference so far between this year and last year? Daniel Hood, care to explain?
"Last year, there were a lot of questions," defensive lineman Daniel Hood said. "The coaches installed way too much too fast. You could see guys out there playing with hesitation. There wasn't any of the energy. There weren't any big hits like we had today. This is a complete 180 from last year."
So basically the Clawfense on defense then, which is pretty much how it looked. But could it also be the absence of Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter, and Cordarrelle Patterson? Um, yeah. UT offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian says he's trying to get either of Justin Worley or Nathan Peterman to be that alpha-male, which was never really a problem for Bray. He says it will come with time, but he follows up that statement with an acknowledgement that we don't have time.
Either way, coach Jones was "not pleased at all" with the offense, and he's blaming the QBs, the RBs, the WRs, and yes, even the linemen. There were nine (9!) three-and-outs. Said Jones, "Somebody is going to have to step up and play offense here come the first game against Austin Peay." Uh-huh.
And Jones is not shy about amplifying his thoughts, whether positive or negative. Apparently, he carries a microphone around at practice and scrimmages, and his comments echo throughout the hills of East Tennessee. "107,000 people just groaned!" Jones yelled when Pig Howard fumbled. Shoot, he even loudly "ejected" Corey Vereen from the "game" for an extracurricular shove: “No. 50 is out of the game,” Jones shouted. “Take his helmet. Take his pads off.”
Before anyone thinks this is Derek Dooley with an amplifier, it's not. Jones doesn't reserve the microphone just for the negatives, belting out positives whenever and wherever he finds them. He also wore the coach's visor immediately after the umpire's stripes on the Vereen "ejection," calling Vereen over to get his side of the story. To Jones, it's all about fostering a culture of responsibility, and the players not only understand, they appreciate it. Mr. Hood again:
"I like it because you have to be held accountable for everything you do," Hood said. "You can't get by with the little stuff. If you get by with it and he allows it then it's just going to become a habit. With him calling you or it out, then you know what you did wrong and to correct it right then. The whole team is held to the same standard."
Offense: QB Justin Worley, WRs Jason Croom, Cody Blanc and Alton "Pig" Howard, and OL Marcus Jackson, James Stone, Zach Fulton, Ja'Wuan James and Alex Bullard. RBs? Seems to be up in the air.
Defense: DL Marlon Walls, Jacques Smith, Dan Hood, and Daniel McCullers up front, LBs Brent Brewer and A.J. Johnson, and DBs Brian Randolph and Justin Coleman. And Byron Moore of the no-fly zone, we're guessing, although his name wasn't on that list.
Etceteras. Yes, Jones and company are looking for linemen . . . Dave Serrano and the baseball Vols are in the midst of an 8-game losing streak and just lost 19-2 at home to South Carolina . . . Director of recruiting J.R. Sandlin is "no longer on the staff" -- no additional comment from Jones -- and he follows "recruiting assistant" Keith Pantling, who left the program last month. Anyone want to raise eyebrows at this?