Competition at QB

He's still working with the second team but Nick Stephens is doing enough this preseason to keep Tennessee's quarterback race interesting.

Stephens completed 8 of 12 passes for 93 yards in Saturday's full-scale scrimmage. First-teamer Jonathan Crompton was 10 of 13 for 164 yards. Stephens directed touchdown drives on three of five possessions, however, with another possession ending at the 1-foot line after a 69-yard march. Crompton directed three TD drives in seven possessions.

"I think I did pretty good," Stephens said following the scrimmage. "I think I made all of the correct reads. I had one ball down near the goal line where I tried to force it in there (nearly resulting in an interception). I talked to Coach about it, and I went to the right spot. We've just got to win or I've got to throw it away. That was on me."

Nick Stephens' first three possessions of the scrimmage produced drives of 70, 69 and 70 yards, along with two touchdowns. The strong start did a great deal for his confidence.

"It meant a lot," he said. "I had a good day last practice (Friday) except for the final couple of plays. To start off strong is a good thing but you also have to finish strong."

Stephens benefited greatly from having Tauren Poole in the backfield. Poole rushed for 141 yards on just eight carries, getting most of those yards working with Stephens and the No. 2 offense. Poole's success opened things up a bit for the passing attack.

"It actually built off the run game and how well we ran the ball," Stephens said. "If you can run the ball great you can throw the ball great. That's real encouraging to see us run the ball like that. We can build on that."

Three of Tennessee's receivers - newcomers Nu'Keese Richardson, Marsalis Teague and Zach Rogers - continue to learn the offense and make the occasional freshman mistake. Still, Stephens says they aren't limiting the Vols' offensive repertoire in any way.

"Everybody messes up now and then, and it takes a little more (concentration) when you're a rookie," he said. "These guys are adapting so well right now. They make some mistakes ... but we're confident in them and we're confident they're going to make plays."

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