The apocalyptic weather that was supposed to pelt Knoxville for the Orange and White Game Saturday held off. The only lightning anywhere around happened when Jalen Hurd touched the football.
With the 2015 spring game in the books, Tennessee is now preparing toward the summer with hopes of gaining back a bevy of talented players who are either injured or not on campus yet. But what we were able to see Saturday gives a faint idea of Tennessee’s identity as it completes spring practice.
If there were a spring game Hall of Fame, Josh Malone would be the first inductee. They'd put up a statue in March and take it down ceremoniously in April. The sophomore wide receiver hauled in two catches for 80 yards and a touchdown Saturday, which is actually worse than last year when he caught three touchdowns for 181 yards. Malone is beastly when in the comfy confines of his home stadium without any pressure (and against walk-on defensive backs), but the Vols desperately need that to translate in actual games in 2015.
Joshua Dobbs didn’t even have to watch Quinten Dormady throw during the halftime quarterback challenge. The junior captain could hear how well Dormady was doing from the loudspeakers as his head coach goaded him on his backup’s solid showing. In his first bit of faux pressure, which Butch Jones purposefully tried to create, Dobbs delivered with perfect precision to edge Dormady in the competition. We all know what Dobbs can do, but seeing him take an innocuous drill and want to win it is what you want to see from a rising SEC star. He ended the day 5-8 for 94 yards and a touchdown.
Smothered and covered
The Vols sprinkled in some one-on-one action with the actual scrimmage Saturday that the defense won convincingly. In red zone drills, not one receiver caught a single pass. Tennessee’s defensive backs were all over them like a cheap suit. It’s encouraging to see the secondary play with tenacity, but it’s never good when your wide receivers can’t make one short completion in multiple tries.
|Tennessee freshman defensive tackle Shy Tuttle|
Shy’s not shy
Butch Jones almost couldn’t contain his excitement when he announced the pairing of freshman Shy Tuttle with sophomore Coleman Thomas in one-on-one line drills. The fans were almost as gleeful when Tuttle powered Thomas back into his quarterback like he had his teammate on a dolly. If you're looking for one player who has tremendously improved since he walked on campus, Tuttle is your guy. The 6-3, 315-pound Coke machine has great hands, a quick first step and unbelievable strength. He’s going to make himself known on an extremely talented defensive line in 2015.
Looking for linebackers
It’s no question Jalen Reeves-Maybin is the second-level star of Tennessee. But after the spring game we’re no closer to finding out who will stand by his side as we were when spring practice began. Kenneth Bynum started at the MIKE spot but didn’t turn in a noticeable day. None of the linebackers did, and that spot remains a looming question mark as the summer months begin.
Ya Hurd me?
Jalen Hurd took his first carry of the day and galloped for 26 yards, igniting the announced 63,016 fans in attendance and showcasing his athleticism to culminate a frustrating, limited-contact spring. The sophomore wanted to be at full go, but injuries forced him to play it safe. When Hurd is in the backfield the offense is just different — in a good way. He brings a dynamism and electricity to the position that is simply not there when he’s on the sideline. The 6-3, 230-pound Hendersonville native ended the day with 40 yards on just three carries and gives Butch Jones’ offense a versatile weapon who will shine in 2015.