KNOXVILLE — Tennessee first-year football coach Butch Jones needed no review of the video to know what work the Volunteers defense must do in the next week of preseason practices.
The Vols found some success offensively by running the football, but there's a flip side to being a coach.
"Off the top of my head, the big thing was we saw way too many missed tackles," Jones said Saturday night after his team scrimmaged about 10 hours after a 75-minute practice in the morning. "We gave up a 98-yard touchdown run. We let the ball get outside our defense, we lost leverage, and those are game-changers."
Tailback Rajion Neal's long scoring run was the scrimmage's biggest play, but the second-team defense surrendered a 14-play scoring drive that was only running plays.
"That's a mentality," Jones said. "We have to run the football to win in the SEC. We have to stop the run. The flip side of being a head coach is I didn't like that from our defensive front and from our entire defense. Obviously that'll be a point we'll coach heavily tomorrow."
Tennessee's defense forced just one turnover. Late in the scrimmage, in a four-minute drill in which the defense was challenged to regain possession of the ball, linebackers John Propst and Kenny Bynum forced and recovered a fumble.
Tennessee's defense performed well in the early practice, when the offense was put into some difficult end-of-game situations in which they had to throw, and safety Brian Randolph said the Vols were effective in pass coverage during both practices.
Randolph did note some of the mistakes during the second practice.
"The basic stuff," he said. "We can get that fixed pretty fast."
Jones commended Neal for running "with a purpose" during Saturday night's session.
Here's what the senior saw during his 98-yard touchdown scamper:
"It's a normal inside zone play, straight downhill. My O-line gave me a great push, had a lot of squeeze from the D-line and they left me with one cut, one block to make. I took it [outside] when I'd seen it.
"I just hit it. I had a safety [to beat]. He had a crazy angle. I almost didn't think I was going to make it, but all I said was, 'I cannot get caught.'"
Said Randolph: "He was tough to tackle. He had good balance. He's the one who got the big runs against the ones."
Multiple players said the all Vols' tailbacks performed well.
Randolph was involved in one of the more interesting moments of the day during the morning practice.
With the first-team offense facing fourth-and-long, quarterback Justin Worley threw a deep pass along the sideline near the first-down marker for freshman receiver Marquez North. The pass was thrown perfectly between the cornerback and the safety, and Randolph arrived just as the ball did and delivered a hit high on North that jarred the ball loose.
It didn't draw a penalty flag for targeting or a helmet-to-helmet hit at the time, but it likely would have during a game given college football's new rules.
"We've had a full officiating crew here, so when we went back in this morning, we met with the officials," Jones explained after the day's second practice. "We talked about the rule changes, and that was a play we put on the video to discuss. That would have been a penalty. Unfortunately it was a young man trying to make a play with the ball in the air, and his helmet happened to get above the shoulder pads. They're going to call it. It's a great teaching point.
"Brian was just trying to play the ball in the air, but because where the contact occurred and it being a point of emphasis, and also the definition of a defenseless player, those plays are going to be called."
Jones said Tennessee's second-team offensive line is "really coming around." He singled out center Mack Crowder and said fourth-year junior Marques Pair might be the most improved player on the team.
He saved his biggest praise, though, for freshman Dylan Wiesman. The 6-foot-3, 308-pounder from Cincinnati committed to the hometown Bearcats while Jones was the coach there and flipped his pledge to the Vols after the coaching change. He's played both guard and center during the preseason.
"He's physical, he's very, very intelligent and he's playing himself right now into the rotation of our offensive line," Jones said. "We've asked a lot of him as a true freshman, from playing center to playing guard, and he's playing with a high level of consistency right now."
Fugate to transfer?
Reserve linebacker and special teamer Channing Fugate has been absent from practice the past two days, and Jones said the senior is exploring a transfer from the Vols' program.
"Right now Channing is weighing his options," he said. "He wants to have more of a role in playing football, and we're helping him. We've met a few times. He's weighing his options right now of possibly transferring to another school."
The 6-foot-1, 256-pounder from Kentucky was successful as a freshman fullback, started just once as a sophomore before moving to defense last spring. He led Tennessee with 13 special-teams tackles last season.
Defensive tackle Mo Couch missed both of Saturday's practices, wore a protective boot on his right foot after leaving Friday's practice and is day-to-day with a strained calf, and Trevarris Saulsberry left the field with the help of two trainers and appeared to put little weight on his left leg. ... Receiver Vincent Dallas, tight end A.J. Branisel, linebackers Curt Maggitt and Justin King, cornerback Malik Foreman and safety LaDarrell McNeil were in green noncontact jerseys for Saturday night's practice. ... Freshman receiver Josh Smith returned after missing a few days with a knee injury.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...
related articles »
KNOXVILLE — Oregon football has been synonymous with speed ever since former coach Chip Kelly injected his high-tempo offensive scheme ...
KNOXVILLE -- An unhappy Butch Jones ditched his patented wireless microphone, but you still could have heard the Tennessee football ...
KNOXVILLE - Tennessee practiced for a little more than an hour this morning ahead of tonight's scrimmage, but first-year coach ...
KNOXVILLE — Corey Vereen's freshman season at Tennessee doesn't appear headed toward a premature end.