Vols hold first scrimmage of spring

Derek Dooley and his football team had their first scrimmage of spring practice Thursday afternoon. Go "Inside" to get all the latest news about the Vols' efforts inside Neyland Stadium.

The Tennessee Volunteers football team moved into Neyland Stadium for their first scrimmage of the year's spring practice.

The head coach thought Thursday's outing was standard for spring practice.

"It was pretty typical of a first scrimmage," Derek Dooley said. "I think there was probably three good lessons coming out of it. First is managing the ebb and flow of the game."

The scrimmage swayed from defensive momentum in the first half to offensive firepower in the second.

"The defense was very dominant early in the scrimmage, the offense really struggling to get a first down," Dooley said. "Then after the halftime, it happens all the time, the defense was feeling pretty good and then they give up a big play."

That big play came in the form of running back Tauren Poole, who broke off what quarterback Nick Stephens said was a sweep that Poole took 60-plus yards to the end zone. Dooley said that Poole has a long way to go, but he is separating himself as the Vols number one running back.

"Well, he has kind of been a real steady hand at the number one spot," Dooley said. "He has a lot of work to do as a runner to be a good, durable and effective runner, but right now he is our most productive runner."

While Poole may have had a standout day, Stephens did not. The senior quarterback described his own play as tight, while Dooley said Stephens looked jittery.

"Certainly wasn't his best performance," Dooley said. "He was probably a little late on some reads, some batted balls, just very jittery. That's why you have a first scrimmage."

And while Stephens may be struggling, juco transfer Matt Simms seems to be winning over his teammates with his presence in the huddle. Dooley said that Simms seems to have the intangibles for the quarterback position.

"Matt has a good personality for a quarterback," Dooley said. "He is a confident guy, he has good command, has a good presence in the huddle, but at the end of the day you have to be able to execute, run the offense, move the ball, score points and affect others. He is showing signs that he is very capable of doing that."

Simms was even seen bonding with senior leader and defensive end Chris Walker after Thursday's practice.

Dooley did say that Simms threw an interception during Thursday's scrimmage. Or was it that Janzen Jackson just caught one?

"We had a couple of interceptions. One of them was just a phenomenal play by Janzen Jackson," Dooley said.

The other interception came when freshman Tyler Bray threw a ball across the middle of the field during a two-minute drill.

When asked if the offense was seeing everything that the defense had, Dooley responded that they certainly weren't taking it easy on the Tennessee offense.

"I wouldn't say we have the whole package in, but we aren't playing vanilla defense," Dooley said.

"We are mixing up the coverages, we are bringing pressure when we should bring pressure in a game, so I wouldn't say we are throwing the kitchen sink at the offense, but we are also not making it easy on them."

Dooley says the end of this week marks a turning point in spring practice. It's time to evaluate and determine what goals his team will set for the remainder of spring practice.

"This is a real defining point of spring ball," Dooley said. "It's the halfway mark and we are going to have to make some personnel evaluations and some adjustments.

"Now, this is a real early let's see where we are. We are going to spend a lot of time evaluating this film, a lot of time with the players and refocus for the second half of spring."

Dooley and the football team will resume practice next Tuesday with a game-week schedule. Practices are scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday followed by another scrimmage Saturday.

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