Five key takeaways from the Orange and White Game on Saturday:
1. Dormady is making a strong push to be the No. 2 QB
We’ve referenced it several times over the course of spring practice, and nothing changed when 63,000+ were in attendance on Saturday at Neyland Stadium. Quinten Dormady had an impressive spring and is making a great case to be UT’s backup quarterback this fall. He made a perfect throw to Josh Malone down the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown and almost beat out Joshua Dobbs in the QB skills contest before losing by just one point.
We’ll see what Sheriron Jones can bring to the competition this summer. And I love Jauan Jennings’ upside and competitive drive. But there’s little doubt that Dormady is the leader in the clubhouse right now to be No. 2 behind Dobbs.
2. The running game has a ton of potential
A few sacks and negative plays ate into the total, but the Vols still managed to net 160 yards and a couple scores on the ground. Alvin Kamara didn’t have a great day statistically, but showed some of the burst and athleticism we’ve seen in the prior 14 practices. But it was Jalen Hurd that really caught my eye. He was in non-contact jersey, but he made the most of his limited opportunities – taking three carries for 40 yards – and looking stronger and quicker than he did even in his impressive freshman debut in 2014.
Dobbs was non-contact, so he didn’t have many chances to show what he can do on the ground, but we know he’s always a threat to pull it down. And if the coaching staff decides to work in a package for Jauan Jennings at any point, he showed that he can be an asset on the ground as well. Depth will continue to be a concern, but you have to like the potential for the Vols to take a big step in the ground game in 2015.
3. Receiver is a question mark heading into the offseason
A group that had so much potential has become a bit more of a question mark heading into the offseason. The tenuous status of Von Pearson is part of that, but the product on the field wasn’t spectacular Saturday either.
“We’ve got to find some receivers that can catch the football and advance the football,” Butch Jones said after the game. “I was not particularly pleased with that area, but they’ll get it right.”
Injuries have to be considered as well. Marquez North was limited all spring and didn’t play much, if any, on Saturday. Jason Croom is out. Pig Howard was limited as well. So there’s plenty of hope and potential for this group, there just weren’t many big plays on Saturday. One of the few came from Josh Malone, who is now making a habit out of making big plays in the Orange and White Game, when he hauled in a 65-yard touchdown pass. That’s good to see for the Vols, but it also came against walk-on corner Devin Williams, so it has to be taken with a grain of salt as well.
4. Defensive backs stepped up
Some of the receivers’ struggles on the day can be credited to a really strong effort from the defensive backs. One of the healthiest units on the team, the DBs made several big plays including a pitch interception from Cam Sutton that he took 20 back yards for a defensive touchdown. Sutton was solid in coverage, as were Emmanuel Moseley and Malik Foreman, both of whom made strides this spring.
Filling in for LaDarrell McNeil, Evan Berry was everywhere as well, leading the team with nine tackles and a TFL. John Jancek needs to find ways to incorporate him in the defense as much as possible, even if he doesn’t crack the starting lineup in 2015.
The one-on-one drills between the WRs and DBs near the goal line were telling. The DBs swept that drill, earning seven points for the defense, and punctuating what was a very good day overall for that group.
5. Young defensive linemen did some good things
I really liked some of the things the young defensive linemen did. Andrew Butcher had one of the plays of the day when he got around Dontavious Blair and took down Jauan Jennings for a true sack (since Jennings was live). Butcher had a solid day overall with four tackles, the sack and 1.5 TFLs. Charles Mosley and Shy Tuttle were tough to move and Kendal Vickers recorded a sack as well.
It’s going to be a deep and competitive group come fall, and the guys that got a lot of work in this spring, though maybe not all the most highly-touted on the team, should really benefit from these 15 practices.