Staggering QBs

Being the No. 1 quarterback is supposed to make a guy swagger. At Tennessee this spring it's making guys stagger.

Senior Nick Stephens entered the Vols' April 1 scrimmage as the unofficial first-team QB but played so poorly - 3 of 9 for 6 yards - that he saw his practice repetitions cut and quit the team five days later.

Junior college transfer Matt Simms entered Saturday's second spring scrimmage as the unofficial first-team QB but completed just 8 of 25 attempts (32 percent) for 110 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Afterward, Simms admitted that, with Stephens gone, he was pressing a bit and may have tried to do a little too much.

"That definitely changed things a little bit," Simms said of Stephens' absence. "I probably put a little too much pressure on myself in the beginning. I just have to remind myself to play as who I am and have fun."

If he enjoys handing off the football, Simms should have a lot of fun this spring. The Vols reportedly are working awfully hard on developing an adequate ground attack. Simms says that's fine with him.

"In this league there's no real spread offenses besides Florida," he said. "You have to be able to run the ball. If you want to wear out the clock at the end of the game or just be physical and get a first down, you have to run the ball well. That's what we've been trying to do - establish the run game, especially with the young offensive line."

Junior tailback Tauren Poole has sparked the run game in the first two scrimmages - rushing nine times for 94 yards in the initial one and carrying 11 times for 87 yards on Saturday. He broke a 67-yard touchdown run in the former and popped a 65-yard TD burst in the latter.

Although he is impressed with Poole's scrimmage work, Simms also likes what he has seen from sophomore tailback David Oku and redshirt freshman Toney Williams.

"If they make the runs they've been making, you can't help but be comfortable with them," the quarterback said. "They're doing extremely well and they're playing hard. That's all you can ask for."

No discussion of UT's attack would be complete, of course, without mentioning the offensive line. With five new starters across the front, most observers figure the Vols' blocking will be weak. Simms believes the offensive linemen deserve more credit than that.

"They're playing really, really well," he said. "It's unbelievable how much has changed since that first week. We have a great offensive line coach in Coach (Harry) Hiestand. He's working 'em to death. It's definitely a positive for the future."


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