Things would get worse before they got better. A dozen plays later O'Neal got behind the second-team secondary for what should've been a 38-yard touchdown play … except he dropped Nick Stephens' pass
With nowhere to go but up, O'Neal finally redeemed himself somewhat. Beating freshman defensive back C. J. Fleming, he gathered in a perfectly thrown 60-yard touchdown strike from Stephens for the most spectacular play of the scrimmage.
O'Neal also had a four-yard catch to finish his first full-scale scrimmage as a Vol with 64 yards on two receptions.
No. 1 quarterback Erik Ainge praised O'Neal for his "great, great speed," but added that the scuffle with Evans was a huge mistake. Ainge noted that O'Neal's subsequent TD grab "never would've happened in a real game" because he would've been ejected for fighting.
Flashy freshman Gerald Jones added 45 yards on three catches and sophomore Quintin Hancock 33 yards on two grabs. Junior Lucas Taylor caught three balls for 28 yards. Austin Rogers caught just one pass but made a nifty move that turned a quick hitch into a 21-yard gain.
"Lucas Taylor really hasn't disappointed," offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe said. "He's continued to take steps. And I didn't get the ball to Austin early but Austin made a huge play in the fourth-quarter drill along the sideline."
Ainge completed 9 of 17 passes for 70 yards with two interceptions. Jonathan Crompton clicked on 11 of 16 for 93 yards with one interception and two catchable balls dropped. Stephens finished 4 of 7 for 94 yards and a touchdown. He would've been 5 of 7 for 132 yards and two TDs had O'Neal hung on to the 38-yard bomb he threw on his first series of the scrimmage.
Minus the top three receivers from 2006, Tennessee's wideout corps loomed as a problem area heading into 2007. Nothing happened Saturday to change that perception.
"We're far, far from game ready – probably a little further from game ready than I thought," offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe said. "There were far too many missed assignments. The spacing in the passing game was very average. That generally happens when you have missed assignments and you don't get people where they're supposed to be."
The coordinator wasn't thrilled with the play of the tight ends, either. They dropped several passes, although Jeff Cottam finished with four catches for 16 yards and Luke Stocker two catches for eight yards.
"I thought Jeff Cottam and Stocker would've made more plays than they did," Cutcliffe said, adding that he didn't call many passes for the tight ends because "I wanted to see what our outside people (wide receivers) would and could do."
Ultimately, the wide receiver play was so uneven that it detracted a bit from some very good work by the three quarterbacks.
"I don't think it was a great day to evaluate our quarterbacks," Cutcliffe said.
Noting that one of Ainge's two interceptions occurred because he was told to put the ball up for grabs occasionally just to see if the receivers could make plays, the coordinator added: "You do things like that in scrimmages."