'Touching' tribute

The problem with being a secret weapon is that sometimes you're more secret than weapon.

That was the case in Tennessee's second spring scrimmage for Gerald Jones, who did not get a single touch in the two-hour workout. Fortunately, this was a correctable mistake. Scrimmage No. 3 last Saturday at Neyland Stadium would be different ... MUCH different.

This time proving to be more weapon than secret, the shifty sophomore caught seven passes for 55 yards, leading all receivers in both categories. He gained another eight yards rushing the ball on a flanker reverse. He also generated one touch on his own, scooping up a blocked punt and returning the ball 25 yards for a touchdown.

With nine touches in one scrimmage, Gerald Jones may not be a secret weapon much longer.

"We made a more concerted effort to try and get him the ball," offensive coordinator Dave Clawson explained. "We tried to get the ball deep to him. We ran a reverse with him. We tried to get him in the slot, matched up on linebackers a little bit, and he made some plays. There are some things he could've done better, too, but he made some good plays for us."

Jones was one of the most celebrated members in Tennessee's 2007 signing class. The 6-0, 185-pounder from Oklahoma City was ranked among America's top receiver prospects, even though he was a shotgun quarterback at Millwood High School.

Slowed by a hamstring pull in his early months at Tennessee, Jones was ticketed for a redshirt year until Game 7, when he recorded two catches for 27 yards at Alabama. He added a 20-yard catch and two rushes for 20 more yards the next week against South Carolina.

Tennessee put in package utilizing Jones as a direct-snap tailback to utilize the quarterbacking skills he had developed in high school. He ran from the so-called "G-Gun" twice in the SEC Championship Game against eventual national champ LSU, gaining 39 yards. He then capped his freshman year with three catches for 34 yards against Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl.

Given the promise Jones exhibited last fall, not getting him a single touch in Spring Scrimmage No. 2 represented a serious oversight. Clawson rectified that situation in Scrimmage No. 3, producing a "touching tribute" by giving Jones touches in bunches.

"I thought we did a nice job of getting Gerald Jones the ball in space a little bit," Clawson said. "That was something we wanted to do; we wanted to try to get him a little more involved. We did that early, and I thought that helped us go a little bit.

"We approached this scrimmage a little bit differently," the coordinator added. "We didn't really want to look at plays. We wanted to try and get certain guys the ball in certain positions, and he was one of the guys we tried to do that with. I'm sure his numbers will reflect that."

Jones' explosiveness helped loosen up a Tennessee defense that had dominated the two previous scrimmages. As a result, the Vol offense looked much better than it had just one week earlier.

"I think we played very well ... a lot better than we have done in the past," Jones said. "But we've still got a lot of work to do. I think repetition will help us a lot. Off the field, going to the film room and studying ... the time we put in will affect how good we are."

Because Clawson is implementing a new West Coast system this spring, Jones has worked exclusively at receiver. He has not lined up in the G-Gun to date. He suspects that will change when preseason drills begin in August, however.

"I think we will do some quarterback," he said. "I talked to Coach Clawson before the scrimmage. It's a matter of timing ... me getting the offense down pat. Once that happens, hopefully, I can get back there and take a couple of snaps."

Is he looking forward to that day?

"Oh, yeah," Jones said, grinning broadly. "Most definitely."


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