Personnel is key in O&W game

If you want an up-close look at Tennessee's talented running backs and linebackers, Saturday's Orange & White game is for you. If you want to check out the revamped receiving corps and secondary, Saturday's game is for you.

But if you want to assess the new schemes the Vols are implementing for 2007, you might as well stay home. They won't be on display until September. Basically, there won't be any mint chocolate chip served Saturday at Neyland Stadium … just vanilla.

Reason No. 1: The Vol roster features a lot of young players who have had just 14 practices to learn a lot of new stuff. Most are still developing the familiarity needed to execute these new assignments.

"The reason we're keeping it simple in the spring game is you've got mix and match people," head coach Phillip Fulmer said following Thursday's practice. "It's almost impossible to have any consistency if you turn the defense loose to do anything they want to against a team (of young players) that probably won't see the field for another year."

Or, as offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe put it: "Let's see who will compete and play with great intensity and effort, where you don't have anybody confused."

Reason No. 2: The Vols don't want to unveil some of their new wrinkles and give upcoming opponents a chance to spend the summer planning ways to counter them.

"You never know who's there," Cutcliffe said, grinning smugly. "When you have open admission I'm sure there will be some friends of some friends of mine that coach in this league here, so you're not going to show anything. Plus, it's on television, so everybody's going to have it."

Holding back in the spring game is hardly a bold new concept. Most teams have been doing it for years.

"Everybody's pretty vanilla," Cutcliffe conceded. "We're going to be REAL vanilla, do very little of what we would do in the no-huddle situation."

Still, the Vol aide promises that Saturday's game (2 p.m. kickoff with no admission charge) will be entertaining. Fans will learn a lot about UT's personnel, he says, if not UT's schemes.

"It's going to be fun to watch," Cutcliffe said. "I'm not trying to run the fans off. They'll see plenty. We're going to throw it around and run it. It'll be a competitive game. It's going to be good against good."

Although he loves the cat-and-mouse aspect of the game, defensive coordinator John Chavis has no problem with the limited scheming in effect for Saturday.

"Scheme-wise, there's not going to be a lot … very little," he said. "But that's OK. We want ‘em to go out and compete. It's about competing, taking the opportunity to get better."

Besides, Chavis already gave his troops plenty of scheme work during the practices that were closed to the public.

"We've done what we needed to do scheme-wise," he said. "We've been wide-open. We haven't let off on anything. We've been able to blitz, to zone blitz and the other things we needed to do to get ready for fall. But we're not going to go out and show a lot of scheme in the spring game.

"We're going to be competing but we'll not be competing with our full package."

So, if you're thinking you'll pick up some in-depth insights at the Orange & White game, think again. Even a veteran observer like Fulmer doesn't learn much from a spring scrimmage.

"I watched Auburn's game," he admitted, "and I couldn't tell you much about what they did. It's simple. Everybody does the same stuff."

And it's always basic stuff.


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