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Spring Game Will Be “Evaluation Tool” For Vols

Photo Credit: Will Boling/RTI

Tennessee’s annual spring Orange and White Game returns this Saturday, and coach Butch Jones said it’ll have a format similar to last season’s edition.

“We’ll have Circle of Life, we’ll have one-on-ones, we’ll have our quarterback challenge – we’ll have a little new wrinkle this year – and punter challenge and then play football,” Jones said following practice on Tuesday evening. “It’s a great evaluation tool for us to really see how our players perform. A lot of individuals haven’t performed much, so it will be a great opportunity for them and obviously a great opportunity for our fans and we’re looking forward to that.”

Quarterbacks will be in the spotlight Saturday with top contenders Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano getting their first public opportunity to perform since the graduation of Joshua Dobbs. Offensive coordinator Larry Scott said he’s looking forward to seeing the quarterbacks play on the bigger stage, but is also anticipating the battle carrying on through summer and fall camp.

“Those situations always have a way of working themselves out and revealing themselves when they’re supposed to,” Scott said.

Injuries will also be a big part been of the storyline on Saturday. Jones’ media policy prevents specific injury reports, but a sizable number of scholarship players will likely be out, or at least limited when the Vols take the field in Neyland Stadium at 4 pm ET (SEC Network) on Saturday.

Jones did say that starting running back John Kelly will be among the players that the coaching staff will have to make a decision on after the junior running sustained an injury in practice last week.

“We’ll see – a lot of it is precautionary,” Jones said when asked about Kelly’s status for Saturday. “We have to get him ready for a long season ahead to and prepare this football team for 2017, so we’ll see where he’s at for Saturday and make a determination later in the week.”

While they may not participate Saturday, Tuesday’s practice did have an infusion of fresh faces with several players such as Evan Berry, Josh Smith, Brandon Johnson, Micah Abernathy and others who have been out for much of the spring joining the team for some drills while wearing non-contact uniforms.

“This week has been beneficial because a lot of players that have missed spring with post-surgical injuries are back now,” Jones said.  “So they’re able to hear the new coaches and get on the field and do the drills and some team situations as well, so I think that’s been healthy for us and very beneficial moving forward to our offseason strength and conditioning program.”

But before the offseason, there’s one more opportunity for the players to make a mark this spring.

“I think that’s everything for these kid,” Scott said. “They take these 14 practices, they wind it up really tight and say hey, this stadium has people in it, it’s been awhile since that’s happened for us. Some young kids that are excited about the opportunity to do that because they haven’t had the opportunity to do that yet, they’ve redshirted or just come into the program, so there are some emotions there for the kids, but I think it’s a great way to finish off spring football.”

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