He succeeded in grand fashion.
Despite a heavy emphasis on the ground game this spring, 50 rushes netted a mere 98 yards. That's an average of less than 2.0 per attempt. Scholarship quarterbacks Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman combined to complete just 17 of 41 passes (41.5 percent) for 221 yards. They posted these numbers against a secondary that was among of the NCAA's worst last fall. They were sacked 7 times by a pass rush that mustered just 17 sacks in 11 games last fall.
If Jones was purposely underplaying Tennessee's offensive capabilities, he did a bang-up job. But what if he wasn't? What if the Vol attack is as severely limited as it appeared before 61,076 inquiring minds on a balmy afternoon at Neyland Stadium?
That has to be a concern — for Tennessee's coaches, Tennessee's players and Tennessee's fans alike.
After three years of rubber-armed Tyler Bray, the Vols looked pretty bland at quarterback. Worley, a rising junior, finished with half-decent numbers — 8 of 18 for 123 yards — but got nearly half of those yards on 20-yard completion that Cody Blanc turned into a 58-yard gain. Worley finished with one touchdown and one interception.
|Tennessee receiver Alton Howard (2) pulls down a short pass during the Orange & White game in Knoxville.|
Tennessee entered the 2012 season with three of the most electrifying wide receivers in college football — Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers. All projected to be first-round picks in the 2014 NFL Draft ... if they hung around long enough. None did.
Patterson, Hunter and Rogers are gone. So is Zach Rogers, who was the No. 4 wide receiver last year but would easily be No. 1 this year.
With all of their proven wideouts missing, Tennessee's leading pass catchers Saturday were running back Alden Hill and running back-turned-receiver Devrin Young ... three catches each. Hill parlayed his trio of receptions into 14 yards, Young into 13 yards.
Deducting his 58-yard reception leaves Blanc with one catch for 1 yard. Deducting his 48-yard grab leaves Dallas with one catch for 5 yards. Tailback Rajion Neal had a nifty 39-yard pickup on a flat pass. His other reception netted just 3 yards. Pig Howard, the heir-apparent as Tennessee's big-play receiver, had one catch for 21 yards and another for minus-3.
The overwhelming positive for Tennessee's offense was the play of second-team tailback Hill. In addition to his three catches, he rushed for 101 yards. Besides averaging a healthy 5.6 yards per carry, he did not lose the ball or yardage on any of his 18 rushes.
"Alden Hill has been a great surprise," Jones said. "Does he still have a long way to go? Yes. Did he leave some yards out there? Yes ... cutting off the wrong foot and all of that. But he's been an individual who's had great consistency in his performance. He comes with the mentality to get better each and every day. He's become much more physical, so I'm really, really encouraged by what I've seen from him."
Tennessee fans should be "really, really encouraged" by what they saw from Hill, too. He was the glaring bright spot for an offense that showed very little Saturday afternoon.
Perhaps that was by design. But what if it wasn't?
Vol running back Alden Hill (30) tries to break free from the tackle of safety LaDarrell McNeil.