Ground game clicks

For the past few years Tennessee's ground game was a lot like the Easter Bunny. Everybody talked about it but no one ever saw it.

That changed today at Neyland Stadium.

With the line opening some nice holes, tailbacks Montario Hardesty, Tauren Poole and Toney Williams gashed the first- and second-team defenses for a surprising number of sizable gains. The offense might've dominated the scrimmage except for several costly turnovers.

Williams, a mid-term freshman with surprising quickness for a 6-0 218-pounder, bolted 41 yards the first time he touched the ball and finished with 84 yards on 14 carries.

"Toney Williams ran well today ... again," head coach Lane Kiffin said.

Listed at 235 pounds when he signed with UT last February, Williams is 17 pounds lighter and significantly quicker than advertised.

"I don't put expectations and don't put ceilings on our guys," Kiffin said. "If you listened to some other people, he was fairly slow and may be a fullback and all that. But we just give 'em opportunities, push 'em and coach 'em – just like we coach a starter – and I think he's really responded."

Poole, a 5-10 203-pound sophomore with great acceleration, bounced back from two early fumbles to rush for 81 yards on 14 attempts. The cut he made on a 15-yard touchdown run was a thing of beauty. He added back-to-back gains of 21 and 14 yards later in the scrimmage.

"Boy, he looked good today," Kiffin said. "He just kept spinning, making runs, kept pounding away."

Hardesty, a 6-0 211-pound senior whose career has been plagued by injuries, gained 29 yards on 10 rushes, with a long of 10.

"We did not run Hardesty as much today," Kiffin said. "He's had a lot of work, and we feel good where he's at right now."

Except for Poole's fumbles – one was recovered by the defense, the other rolled harmlessly out of bounds – the two young tailbacks put on quite a display of power and speed.

"It was really good to see those guys (do well)," Kiffin said. "They got a lot of opportunities today because of us sitting Hardesty and Lennon (Creer) not being here anymore, so it was great to see them step up."

The success of the ground game made life easier for quarterbacks Jonathan Crompton and B. J. Coleman. Crompton completed 9 of 16 passes for 90 yards with one interception. Coleman was even sharper, completing 17 of 22 for 112 yards with no interceptions. Nick Stephens, though fully recovered from a fractured right wrist, was held out of the scrimmage.

Kiffin described the quarterback play as "pretty good," adding: "I thought they threw it well. There were a couple of drops at crucial, crucial times that didn't help them out but that's something they can't control."

Denarius Moore was the leading receiver with 45 yards on four receptions. Fullback Austin Johnson added 17 yards on four grabs. Tyler Maples contributed 26 yards on three catches.

Linebacker Herman Lathers led all tacklers with 7. Defensive back Derrick Furlow added 6, as did linebackers Rico McCoy and Savion Frazier. Linebacker Nick Reveiz and safety Prentiss Waggner added 5 each.

Senior safety Demetrice Morley, whose significant other went into labor earlier this week, did not participate in the scrimmage. Kiffin said he'll reserve comment on the matter until Tuesday's practice.

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