Vols start with 'pleasing' practice

InsideTennessee provides you with the best Tennessee football coverage around. Scroll down to read a notebook packed with all the latest updates from the Vols' first spring practice.

Only so much can be learned from a practice where players are suited only in helmets and when so little of the playbook is installed.

So naturally Day 1 of spring camp didn't shed much light on Tennessee's four-headed quarterback competition.

But if anything can be taken from Friday, it's that the race to be named the starter will be a civil one.

All four of Tennessee's quarterbacks said they're "having fun" with the competition, adding that the primary goal this spring is to improve as a whole.

"We all help each other out," redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson said. "That's what we've been doing all throughout camp and it's what we're going to keep doing this spring."

Added redshirt sophomore quarterback Nathan Peterman: "All four of us… we've all just had fun with it and had fun with this competition. We'll set up targets and compete, stuff like that. I think we've all handled it well. It's been a fun experience that will make all of us better."

Ferguson said reps were evenly divided amongst the quarterbacks during practice despite rising senior Justin Worley taking most of the first team snaps during media availability.

Overall, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones was pleased with all the quarterbacks, joking that the gunslingers may have completed more passes in practice Friday than the Vols did all last season.

"I really, really liked what I saw from all of them," Jones said.

Ferguson, who faced the media for the first time since arriving on campus, is the only quarterback fighting for the starting spot who doesn't have game experience. The North Carolina native received a redshirt last season after suffering a leg injury he said he sustained before the Alabama game.

But there didn't seem to be much rust Friday.

Jones said he "really" liked what he saw from Ferguson, adding that he made some "big-time" throws and carried himself with confidence.

Ferguson obviously would have liked the chance to play last season, but said the redshirt year does have its advantages.

Ferguson arrived on campus weighing 173 pounds. He says he's now nearly 200.

"The SEC has some big boys in here," Ferguson told InsideTennessee. "So I knew I had to put on some weight."

Along with hitting the weight room, Ferguson said the down time allowed him the opportunity to better learn the playbook, something he said he struggled with last fall and didn't fully pick up until "midway" through the season.

Ferguson called his knowledge of the offense "great," and said he felt very comfortable taking the field again.

In fact, both Ferguson and sophomore Joshua Dobbs said they felt much more prepared for a practice than ever as they eye their second season.

But each quarterback got their chance Friday to voice how they've improved over the course of the offseason.

Peterman admitted it was "rough" getting over his only start against Florida, in which he completed just four passes for five yards and tossed two interceptions.

But Peterman said he learned not to let the "moment get too big," which he says will help him in this competition.

"I learned just to go out there and play the game and trust God and just have fun with this game," Peterman said. "You can't be too hard on yourself."

Peterman said he also spent time working on his mechanics during the winter, saying adjustments have allowed him to find a "better stroke."

Worley said he's been focusing on consistency, both in this throws and leadership abilities.

<A HREF=//tennessee.scout.com/a.z?s=7&p=8&c=1&nid=7550520>Mack Crowder</A>

Lane leading

Jones has been very open in challenging rising senior running back Marlin Lane to grow into more of a leader.

With the first spring practice in the books, he's off to a good start.

"He led. He was vocal. And I liked the way he practiced," Jones said. "He practiced the way a senior should in our program. He was leading the younger players. He was coaching them."

Position change for Coleman?

Rising senior Justin Coleman worked as a nickelback Friday after spending all of last season as one of Tennessee's starting cornerbacks.

Coleman, who said he'd do "whatever" it takes for the team — joking that he'd even move to linebacker — could bring a more physical presence to a position that is in major need of a skill upgrade.

Poor nickel play plagued the Vols all last season, with the likes of JaRon Toney and walk-on Devaun Swafford seeing the majority of the starts there.

Mack motivating

When asked if any of the offensive linemen were beginning to emerge as leaders, Jones didn't hesitate to answer.

Jones said he's been "very pleased" with center Mack Crowder's progress during the winter and added that he had a "great" first day of practice.

"He's really, really led the group. As he should. He's our center," Jones said. "I've been very pleased with the leadership capabilities he's displayed so far."

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Butch Jones, per university

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