O&W Game is here

The best thing about Saturday's Orange & White Game (2 p.m. kickoff at Neyland Stadium) is that Tennessee will be facing itself and not an Alabama or a Florida.

The Vols still have a long way to go before they're ready to square off against the best teams in the rugged Southeastern Conference.

That's because first-year head man Derek Dooley inherited a mess last January. He assumed a team with a huge question mark at quarterback, a gaping hole at tailback, no returning starters in the offensive line, two voids at defensive tackle, a bunch of injury-plagued linebackers and a secondary ravaged by early defections to the NFL.

Given the overall state of the program, Dooley set about trying to make progress at every position. Naturally, the strides have been bigger at some positions than others. So, heading into the Orange & White Game, where does he feel that his team accomplished the most during its 14 spring workouts?

"I think our offensive line made a lot of progress," Dooley said. "Given the fact that nobody's played and there's so much instability there, I'm kind of pleased with how we're ending spring up there."

Whereas the O-line entered spring practice in the worst shape of any position group, Tennessee's receiver corps probably entered in the best shape. Still, the head man detected significant progress among the pass catchers.

"Certainly," Dooley said, "the seniors in the receiving corps - Denarius (Moore), Gerald (Jones) and (tight end) Luke (Stocker) - you feel good about coming out of spring."

Surprisingly, the boss said he also has been "pleased with the progress the quarterbacks have made."

That's interesting in view of the fact senior Nick Stephens left the team after being demoted, junior Matt Simms completed just 31.1 percent of his passes (14 of 45) in the two full-scale scrimmages and Tyler Bray reportedly is playing the way you would expect a mid-term freshman to in his first taste of big-time college competition.

To recap: Dooley is happy with the progress of the patchwork offensive line, the veteran receivers and the suspect quarterbacking crew.

Defensively, the first-year head man is pleased with some of the younger guys in the front four and the secondary.

"There's progress with our young safeties (sophomores Janzen Jackson and Darren Myles)," Dooley said, "and I'm really pleased with the two young defensive linemen (freshmen Corey Miller and Jacques Smith) and the progress they've made."

Given how many holes the Vols had to fill entering spring practice, however, many situations remain to be stabilized between now and the Sept. 4 opener vs. UT Martin.

"With all of that, though," Dooley conceded, "there's a lot of concerns."

Although encouraged by the progress the Vols made during spring practice, the new head man realizes that his team is nowhere near ready for the rigors of SEC play.

As he put it: "A lot of it is going to be: Can we take where we left off in the spring and roll it into training camp and keep going? That's going to be really the key."

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