It may only be April, but the pads were popping inside Neyland Stadium once again Saturday.
Tennessee used its sixth spring practice for situational scrimmaging on Shields-Watkins Field and turned in a productive session in full pads. The Vols peppered in some individual work with both tackle and thud scrimmage downs.
"I really, really liked our approach as a football team," Jones said. "I thought we came out, we were ready to scrimmage and get after it. A lot of situational football, (there's) so many things that you can learn from now, so now we have to go back and correct our mistakes from the scrimmage. We still have a lot of work to do from our overall pad level, from our physicality, from our tackling."
So who won? According to linebacker Quarte´ Sapp, the defense nailed down the win decisively despite missing six defensive linemen and two linebackers who are out with injuries during spring practice.
"I think the reps are catching up with us," Sapp said. "We're kind of short on personnel with everybody, especially defensive line, and linebacker is a little weak right now. I think that caught up with us at the end of practice."
Jones took a more diplomatic approach to who won the day after the defense took home the honors on the final play of the scrimmage.
"I'm going to go back and recalculate, but you know what it was competitive," Jones said. "When it comes down to the final play, that wasn't manufactured. That was with the scoring system and then they wanted keep going, which is very healthy."
Ethan Wolf missed Saturday's scrimmage with what Butch Jones called a hip pointer, but is expected to be back at practice Tuesday. That didn't stop Jones from discussing what he wants to see from the Ohio native as he develops into Tennessee's premier tight end target heading into his junior season. After a 301-yard, three-touchdown season in 2015, Jones is hoping to see Wolf more involved in the offense as he becomes a veteran on the team.
"I think sometimes that reality doesn't hit you that, 'Oh my gosh, I'm going into my third year at a football program'," Jones said. "'I'm not in my first year or my second year.' It's how you grow and develop, and we've really challenged Ethan with that. He's done a good job, but I just think it's the physicality, consistency, being very aggressive in his run blocking, and he's continued to do that."
Wolf, who Jones said is being pushed in practice by his brother and walk-on Eli, recognizes the veteran void in the room and understands it's his time to take the tight end torch.
"Being in the room with me having the most experience in games and stuff like that, it really makes me feel like I have to step up and be a leader," Wolf said.
Back(up) to Back(up)
Quinten Dormady took the reigns of the No. 2 quarterbacking duties last season behind Josh Dobbs, and now he is competing with fellow rising sophomore Sheriron Jones in spring practice to retain the position. Dormady made some crisp passes Saturday during scrimmage situations and looks like he's found a home in Mike DeBord's offensive system in his second spring with the second-year offensive coordinator.
"I feel a lot more comfortable in the offense," Dormady said. "I come in each day and try to learn one or two more things that I didn't know. I want to continue to grow as a player. There is always stuff you are still picking up on. You're never going to know everything."
Butch Jones sees both Dormady and Jones, who transferred to Colorado in January before returning to Tennessee later that month, as competitive arms who make up a dynamically deep quarterback corps for the Vols.
"I see both individuals really improving," Jones said. "I've been really, really pleased with the quarterback position. Those two individuals continue to get better and better. I think it's because of the volume of repetitions. I think the maturity of understanding the offense and being in the system for over a year (helps). Both of these individuals are doing a great job."