Crunching the numbers

Scrimmage statistics, like jockeys, must be weighed carefully. Otherwise, the conclusions they suggest can be utterly illogical.

For instance, the cumulative stats from Tennessee's three preseason football scrimmages suggest that sophomore tight end Jeff Cottam and freshman receiver Gerald Jones will be the Vols' most productive receivers this fall. Cottam caught eight balls and Jones seven in the three full-scale dress rehearsals.

The scrimmage stats also suggest redshirt freshman Nick Stephens should be the No. 1 quarterback. The strong-armed Texan averaged 20.3 yards per completion (12 for 243 yards) with twice as many touchdowns (2) as interceptions (1). Conversely, senior Erik Ainge averaged just 9.3 per completion with more interceptions (3) than touchdowns (2).

Obviously, this comparison is invalid since Ainge compiled his numbers against first-team defenders, whereas Stephens compiled his against third-teamers.

If you take the variables into account, however, some of Tennessee's scrimmage statistics are worth noting. For instance:

Ainge connected on 31 of 55 passes for 288 yards. His completion percentage of 56.3 was nearly 11 points lower than his school-record 67.0 mark of 2006. That suggests he and the Vols' new receivers are not yet on the same page.

Jonathan Crompton completed 30 of 52 passes for 255 yards with 0 TDs and 2 interceptions. His 57.7 completion percentage was pretty good, considering that he spent much of preseason camp running for his life behind a somewhat porous second-team offensive line.

Stephens completed just 12 of 23 passes (52.2 percent) but amassed 243 yards and two touchdowns. The kicker? He piled up 148 of those yards on two plays – a 60-yard TD bomb to Kenny O'Neal and an 88-yard TD hookup with Ahmad Paige. And, as noted earlier, Stephens posted his gaudy numbers at the expense of third-team defensive backs.

Freshman quarterback B. J. Coleman didn't compete in the first scrimmage but went a combined 5 of 12 for 31 yards in the last two. His 41.7 completion percentage would've been 66.7 if three dropped balls had been caught.

The scrimmage stats for Tennessee's tailbacks are similarly interesting. Consider:

Running against the No. 1 defense, first-teamer Arian Foster carried 28 times for 118 yards, an average of 4.2 yards per rush. Second-teamer Montario Hardesty, also competing exclusively against first-team defenders, rushed 11 times for 47 yards, an average of 4.3 per attempt.

Lennon Creer burned second-team defenders for 154 yards on 25 carries, an eye-popping average of 6.2 yards per rush. Fellow rookies Daryl Vereen and Josh Hawkins were not so productive. Vereen rushed 35 times for 115 yards (3.3 per carry) and Hawkins 20 times for 51 yards (2.6 per carry). Roy Olasimbo, facing mainly third-teamers, rushed 15 times for 70 yards (4.7 per carry).

Trying to make sense of the receiving stats from the preseason scrimmages is an exercise in futility. For instance, freshman Ahmad Paige averaged a whopping 27.8 yards per catch (111 yards on four receptions) but 88 of those yards came on one play against a third-team cornerback. Junior college transfer Kenny O'Neal got 60 of his 75 total yards on one play against third-teamers, as well.

That said, here are the receivers' statistics. Interpret them any way you wish:

Lucas Taylor 5 catches for 45 yards (9.0 per catch). Austin Rogers 6 catches for 81 yards (13.5 per catch). Josh Briscoe 6 catches for 50 yards (8.3 per catch). Quintin Hancock 4 catches for 56 yards (14.0 per catch). Kenny O'Neal 5 catches for 75 yards (15.0 per catch). Denarius Moore 4 catches for 70 yards (17.5 per catch). Ahmad Paige 4 catches for 111 yards (27.8 per catch). Brent Vinson 2 catches for 16 yards (8.0 per catch). Todd Campbell 4 catches for 41 yards (10.3 per catch). Tyler Maples 2 catches for 17 yards (8.5 per catch), Casey Woods 1 catch for 4 yards (4.0 per catch).

Finally, the cumulative statistics for the three scrimmages suggest Tennessee's tight ends may see more passes than usual this fall. The top four tight ends combined for 20 receptions and 117 yards, an average of just under 7.0 catches per scrimmage and just under 6.0 yards per catch.

Here are the individual numbers:

Chris Brown 4 catches for 25 yards (6.3 per catch). Brad Cottam 3 catches for 21 yards (7.0 per catch). Jeff Cottam 8 catches for 43 yards (5.4 per catch). Luke Stocker 5 catches for 28 yards (5.6 per catch).

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