Defenses dominate O&W game

Folks with heart problems could not have found a safer place to spend Saturday afternoon than Neyland Stadium. Nothing happened during Tennessee's Orange & White spring game that would cause anyone's heartbeat to quicken.

The No. 1 offense generated just one touchdown. It came on the game's final play, when Jonathan Crompton lofted a two-yard pass to Lucas Taylor, capping a 46-yard drive and giving the White team a lackluster 16-13 victory.

The No. 2 offense also generated one touchdown. It came on a one-yard dive by LaMarcus Coker at the end of a 44-yard drive.

The game's other TD came on a 73-yard interception return by walk-on Tyler Wolf of a pass thrown by fellow walk-on Dylan Dickey.

The remaining points came on field goals of 52 and 43 yards by Britton Colquitt, along with a 27-yarder by Daniel Lincoln.

The offensive statistics were underwhelming. They underscore the fact that coordinator David Cutcliffe's attack unit has a ways to go – a long ways to go – before qualifying as a juggernaut.

With Erik Ainge sidelined, the passers combined to complete just 29 of 58 passes for 263 yards and one touchdown, with four interceptions. They were sacked seven times and hurried all afternoon. The top three running backs – Arian Foster, Coker and Montario Hardesty – combined to gain just 126 yards on 29 carries, a so-so average of 4.3 yards per attempt.

Operating under duress much of the afternoon, No. 1 quarterback Jonathan Crompton completed 13 of 26 passes for 113 yards. He threw an interception and was sacked four times. No. 2 quarterback Nick Stephens completed 14 of 29 for 127 yards, with two interceptions and three sacks.

"The quarterbacks have got Coach Cutcliffe concerned right now," head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "I think they made some progress during the spring but, obviously, the defense got their hands on too many balls today."

Foster was a bright spot, carrying eight times for 63 yards, an average of nearly 8 yards per attempt. But Coker, counted on as a home-run threat, managed just 35 yards on 14 carries, a mere 2.5 yards per touch. Hardesty gained 31 yards on seven attempts, an average of 4.4 per rush.

Walk-on Roy Olasimbo provided the day's biggest gain, bursting 75 yards up the gut against a weary No. 2 defense in the game's final minutes. He finished with 114 yards on seven carries.

As was the case last fall, the rushers didn't get a whole lot of help from the guys up front. The blockers didn't exactly distinguish themselves in pass protection, either.

"I was really disappointed with the pressures that we gave up and the sacks that we gave up," Fulmer said. "There was much, much too many pressures during the course of the scrimmage."

Lucas Taylor, projected to be the big-play guy in Tennessee's depleted receiving corps, picked up just 21 yards on four catches and lost a fumble the first time he touched the ball.

Quintin Hancock (3 catches for 42 yards), Austin Rogers (4 for 55), Slick Shelley (5 for 33) and Josh Briscoe (2 for 18) made routine catches for routine gains. Except for one 25-yard catch/run by Hancock, however, they did nothing noteworthy.

The fact Tennessee's defense stifled the offense all afternoon may have been a testament to the stop unit. More likely, it was an indictment of the attack unit. Regardless, defensive highlights were plentiful.

Linebacker LaMarcus Thompson registered eight tackles (one producing a six-yard loss) and an interception.

Freshman cornerback Art Evans, a mid-term enrollee, contributed seven tackles and a pass breakup in his first O&W game.

Linebacker Rico McCoy recorded six solo tackles and forced Taylor's fumble.

Linebacker Ryan Karl contributed five tackles, including an eight-yard sack.

Tackle Dan Williams registered five tackles (one for minus yardage) and blocked a conversion kick.

Tackle Demonte Bolden recorded four stops, a sack and a pass deflection. He was injured and taken from the field by golf cart at game's end but Fulmer said this was merely a "precaution."

Senior safety Jarod Parrish had four tackles, a pass breakup and a 21-yard interception return.

Junior walk-on linebacker Brett Barnes led all tacklers with nine solos and four assists.

JaKouri Williams, recently converted from wide receiver to safety, recorded a tackle and an interception.

Fulmer said offseason workouts represented Phase 1 of Tennessee's 2007 season, with the O&W game bringing an end to Phase 2 (spring practice). Despite Saturday's lackadaisical offensive showing, the head man remains confident Tennessee's players will jell into a quality team by fall.

"We had a very physical, demanding spring," he said. "To their credit, they showed the toughness to go out and compete and improve as a football team. I think we did that.

"I believe these young men are hungry and will be hungry as we go into the third phase, the summer preparation. When we put everybody back together that was injured … I think we have a chance to be a good football team."

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